You have an idea for a new food product – your friends think its great and you have never seen anything like it on the market. You want to manufacture it but have absolutely no idea where to begin!

You have two choices when faced with this daunting task- you can spend hours and hours figuring out everything from how to start a business, how to find a commercial kitchen or what are the local, state and federal regulations. Or you can hire food industry consultants to help you on the way. It really depends on how much time you have, and how much your time is worth.

Hiring a consultant to guide you on your path is an easy way to bring your product to market. Consultants have experience with co packers, sourcing ingredients and modifying formulas to fit manufacturing parameters. Here are a few things you should know about hiring and working wit a food science consultant:

Keep It Local: Try to find a consultant or a consulting firm that is close to where you live. Face to face meetings, visit to their laboratory/kitchen and group tastings are all great ways to have a good relationship with the consultant and expedite results.

Expect Big Costs: An independent Food science/industry consultant can cost you anywhere from $120 to $300 per hour for their expertise. A consulting firm may cost as much as $5,000 to $50,000 to even begin discussions. There will also be other costs that you need to pay separately like ingredient costs, shipping, lab testing, production runs, and third party analysis (sensory, chemistry, safety)- If you go to a consultant with only $5000 dollars, they will probably not take you on as a client. This is not enough funding to create, develop and manufacture your food product. They may be able to do certain parts of your projects (like you can hire them to JUST find you a co packer or do your nutritional analysis) but always keep in mind that bringing new products to market is expensive. Plan to have at least $25,000 available to spend on research, development and manufacturing.

Be Clear On Budget: Tell your consultant how much you have and how much you can afford to spend. They can figure out the best way to work with your budget, or they may be honest and tell you that they can’t help you without more funding. A moral food scientist will explain the overall costs and big picture expenses that you will have and will want you to have enough to make it through the entire process.

List Specific Deliverables: Be very specific with your consultant about what you want to achieve. If you have kitchen samples you have made, bring them a supply so they can evaluate with you and explain the limitations that may occur down the road. The more specific you are- the better the consultant can assist you.

Understand Capabilities: A food scientist is mostly just that- they are the technical expert- they may not be able to do your marketing, write your business plan, or confirm which flavors will sell best on the market. Make sure you understand what your technical consultant can and cannot do.

NDA’s and Ownership: Make it clear to the consultant that you want to own your own formulas and have them sign an NDA. Most food scientists have no interest in owning or stealing your formula, they create concepts for other people all day long but to be safe and legit, have them sign the NDA and confirm that you will own everything they develop for you.

Bringing a new product to market has many challenges- finding a co-packer, making sure all regulations are followed, using the right equipment and understanding manufacturing limitations are all technical know-how’s that a food scientist deals with on a regular basis. Hiring one will not only save you time but long term money as well. A food scientist will make sure that you don’t violate any regulations (resulting in fines and recalls and damaged reputation)- basically, don’t try to do this by yourself at home-leave it to the experts!

I am so excited about the upcoming Expo West Trade show in Anaheim, California– I can’t wait to walk the miles of aisles all teeming with entrepreneurs who are eager and hopeful about bringing their ideas to market. I love hearing their stories, their successes and their regrets about the path they took to get to where they are- and hearing about their challenges ahead! As a food scientist my job is to help entrepreneurs navigate the confusing food industry waters and figure out the right path and the right order of steps within that path! The more stories of confusion I hear, the more chapters I can add to my E-book The Food Business Tool-Kit for entrepreneurs-How To Research, Develop and Produce A New Food Product to alleviate that confusion!

I want to share a common practice that many entrepreneurs partake in that not only is a waste of time and money but can lead to incorrect assumptions about the food product you want to bring to market. This practice involves trying to develop a product on your own at home without any professional supervision. I am not talking about super early stage creations-sure you can make a few fun batches that represent your “concept” and show it to your family and friends—get some feedback. But it needs to stop there! I have had many entrepreneurs tell me about the months they have spent trying to get their product “just right” and they are ready to go to a manufacturer and make a go for it. When I look at their formula I sadly shake my head and tell them they have a long way to go to make it “commercial ready”. Here are some of the common mistakes that entrepreneurs make when developing products from their home (without professional food science supervision!)

Not Using Industrial Ingredients- Unless you are working with extremely commodity ingredients (sugar, vegetable oil, salt and perhaps water) anything you get from the supermarket is not going to be the same ingredient used at the manufacturing plant. Even something simple like the organic gluten free flour from whole foods- will perform differently in production. When you start using more complicated ingredients like pureed fruit, spices and protein powders – The supermarket brands are not the same, not even close! Spices in the supermarket are not nearly as fresh as what the manufacturer made, fruit purees are often concentrated to various brix levels for consistency and and most protein powders on the market are blended with flavorings and other sweeteners. The solution here is to work with industrial ingredients only. You will have to track down the ingredient suppliers that sell to manufacturers, request samples and work with those ingredients.

Not Using a Proper Scale: I have some sad news… the $25 dollar scale you bought online is not accurate. It usually measures to the nearest gram and in production, those half grams and partial grams are important. Spices and other lightweight items that you weighed out with your inexpensive scale are going to be inaccurate. You may think you weighted out 1 gram of oregano, but it could just as easily have been 1.5, but you will never know because your scale only went out to the 1-gram accuracy. My advice is to spend $300-$500 on a good scale that goes out to the 100th decimal point. So your 1.53 gram of spice weighs out to exactly that.

Relying On Nutritional Information Provided On The Supermarket Label Ingredient: I already mentioned you should not be using supermarket ingredients but for those who are or did, they also tend to rely on that nutritional information on the label. That nutritional label has already been extrapolated down and rounded to match up with the serving size on the package. The FDA regulations have lots of rounding rules that can result in a teaspoon of spice having no calories when actually Oregano has 38 calories per 100 grams and its 9% protein, 69% carbohydrates and 42% fiber. But if you look at a label on a spice jar in the store- it will probably say zero calories, zero carbohydrates, zero fiber. Yes, that may be the case for the tiny 3 gram serving that is recommended.

Not Knowing The Process: You can’t really develop a product if you don’t know how it will be ultimately processed. Unless you have millions of dollars and plan to build your own manufacturing plant and bring in special equipment from Italy- chances are the unique process you created by boiling, dehydrating, freezing, crumbling and adding back into your cake is just not going to fly at the manufacturing plant. Food manufacturers are not going to adapt their process to fit your idea unless you plan to pay for those adaptations. Your process needs to reflect the manufacturers process, not the other way around. I recommend that you find your manufacturer first- understand how they make the product and try to simulate your process to match theirs. This can be done by online research, checking out co-packer websites or simply networking and finding a local food scientist or food science university and asking the professors there for some assistance. Don’t assume that your method can be done in mass production (it probably can’t!)

Spending months perfecting your formula in your own kitchen is not an efficient use of time or funding. After a few initial basic prototypes that you show your family and friends, your next steps should be to either contact a food science consultant or find a manufacturer who can guide you through their processing steps so you understand how to create the product in a commercially viable way. If you hand over your homemade recipe with your own fruit concentrates and vanilla flavored protein powder from whole foods your co packer will probably tell you to recreate the formula so it can be made commercially. What does that mean though? It means follow the points I mention in this article.

Rachel Zemser is a food scientist who helps entrepreneurs bring their food products to market. Her website is www.alacarteconnections.com

2017 Fancy Food Show Review

I spent three days wandering around the winter fancy food show in San Francisco this week! Saw lots of the same old same old (popcorn, chocolate, olive oil, cheese, Italian imports) but like every show, there are always a few unique items and up and coming trends that we hope will make it and hit mainstream!

Wellness Tonics
Tonics are beverages or syrups that are based on traditional or ancient methods for natural self healing. Some interesting products at the show included Apple Cider Vinegar Drinks like Sonoma Syrup, Tuber Tonics and African Bronz Honey Tonic.

DIY Kits 

Why buy something ready to eat when you can sort of put it together yourself. Lots of DIY (do it yourself) kits at the show for both adults and kids! My favorite was HummisStir– a package containing three shelf stable sterilized packs of chic peas, tahini and dry seasoning- that you blend together with a cute wooden spoon. The hummus wasn’t bad– although it needed some fresh lemon juice in there.  Home Cranked Ice Cream Mix eliminates one having to combine their own sugar, cream and milk–the base is right in the box so you can be like professional and dump the mixture into your ice cream machine– press go- and impress everyone with your secret non-blending skills! In the health and wellness DIY space, there are now companies that will sell you their special Kefir starter cultures to make your own Kefir at home! You can also go to Berkeley and just ask around town and someone will probably “gift” you some of theirs but its nice to know there is a reliable clean workable version on the market.  And of course Bagels–the company Everything Bagel and Cream Cheese DIY instructs you on how to make both the bagel and the cream cheese.

An Apple Every Day

Apples are showing up more than ever in products from syrups to freeze dried snacks to BBQ sauce. Some examples I saw at Fancy Food show included Gia Russa Buttered Apple Barbecue Sauce  and Apple Butter Syrup from Blackberry Patch. Stonewall kitchen was also demo’ing their Apple Cider Syrup.

Better For You Snacks-Naturally

Lots of snacks out there made from ingredients that are “healthy” for you. The definition of healthy of course varies, but according to those who are selling it– includes Chickpeas (Chick Bean Crisps), ProTato Crisps, which combines potato with rice protein to make a protein rich crunchy snack. Ticky Rice Chips which  they make by steaming thai sticky rice, soaking it in watermelon (??!!) and then crisping it up so it tastes like the brown bottom of the pan rice that is scraped up. They have 30% less fat than regular potato chips. Also saw Chia Cassava Chips. These products combine both our desire to crunch and snack, but provide us with fiber and protein from the ingredients used.

Decadence Never Dies 

The Fancy Food Show would not be what it is without the usual slew of olive oil, chocolate, cheese and other rich not necessarily good for you but tastes great selection! Chocolate products will always be there for us- and this year was no exception. Some unique items included Torn Ranch Chocolate Covered Banana Chips– that are truly “taste inspired”. The chocolate pate from Guthries— AKA “Sin In A Tin”.

The Products We Still Need To Get Used To

Crickets are hot now but we still need to get used to eating bugs as a protein source. Don Bugito has been around for a few years now– helping to increase awareness about bugs– as a protein source.

The Weirdest Product I saw at the 2017 Fancy Food Show

The strangest thing I saw was a beverage called Eggurt– made from fermented egg white. I don’t quite understand the history of this idea (it is not something that is done in other countries, nor is it something that existed in the past) but it tasted good– like a yogurt drink.  I did find the masters thesis of a food scientist who developed a very similar beverage in 1978, I wonder if there is a connection!

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Energy Bars, Health Bars, Nutrition Bars, Gym Bars—- Mommy Bars, Kid Bars and More! The bar industry is exploding and it seems like anyone who is on the go, wants a bar that fits their specific nutritional needs- and anyone with specific nutritional needs has a bar that they have created and want to bring to market.

6279292734_c7cbe2c5551980’s
Carbs Were Still Ok: Years ago there used to be granola bars—lots of oats, sugar, grains and fruit. They tasted pretty good and it was essentially granola cereal all baked together with sugar. A bar that emerged from the granola era—An era where we used to eat carbohydrates without guilt. Fat was the enemy and granola bars were fat free! Nature Valley comes to mind.

1990’s

Protein: Then the athletics came in- and they wanted a bar that would fit their workout needs. Thus was born the high protein “Power Bars” with lots of whey protein in there. But we were still anti fat and ok with sugar so the power bars were high in sugar. These no-bake bars were held together by their sugar-glue and were very hard and chewy. Lots of soy and whey pushed into a very small concentrated place. These bars didn’t need to be baked, with all that sugar the low water activity held them all together.

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Source: Getty Images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2010
Sugar Alcohol: It then became unpopular to consume carbohydrates and the bar landscape changed. Companies like Quest emerged and replaced the sugar syrups with sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols used to be something that was consumed in small quantities by diabetics- so they could enjoy a small piece of chocolate but now sugar alcohols were being consumed in larger amounts and used to replace most or all of the sugar syrups found in bars.

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Source: Bodybuilding.com

 

 

 

 

2013
Soluble Fibers: Sugar alcohols started getting a bad rep because of the gastro-distress they caused. Bar companies turned to soluble fibers like chicory root, inulin, 0ligiosaccharides, prebiotic fiber, soluble corn fiber. There were lots of names and varieties but ultimately it translated to carbs that are not digested.

Fat is Ok: Guess what, we get to eat fats again- and not just olive oil but the stuff that used to be bad for us like saturated fats from coconut oil and palm oil. Remember when the CSPI said coconut oil and saturated fats were bad—well, now we are told its good! The bar market continued to emerge with bars very high in fat like coconut oil, palm oil and MCT (medium chain triglycerides). This was all propelled forward by Dave Asprey and his  Bullet Proof Coffee. Now we see bars emerging that are just dripping with oil and fat. This is ok—this is acceptable because there are no carbs, there are healthy fats and all the protein comes from nuts. Of course a bit of sugar is needed to keep it from getting moldy so the soluble fibers and sugar alcohols are used for water activity control.

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Source: Cavefoodkitchen.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016
Soluble Fiber Rules Change: In 2016 the FDA put out their updates including noting that not all soluble fibers would count as dietary fiber on the label. Fibers that count include natural fibers from fruits and vegetables but processed inulin fiber may not count. The FDA says, and I quote:

“The F.D.A. plans to publish a separate notice that will seek comment on the available scientific data on non-digestible carbohydrates. Publicly available clinical trial data will be identified and summarized for non-digestible carbohydrates, including inulin, bamboo fiber, soy fiber, pea fiber, wheat fiber, cotton seed fiber, sugar cane fiber, sugar beet fiber and oat fiber”

2015
Glycemic Index: But what about glycemic index?! That’s the new buzz word in the health bar space. Glycemic index and blood sugar are important and the emerging thought now is, its ok if the carbs are actually GASP* digested- but wouldn’t it be nice if it didn’t’ affect our blood sugar levels! The bars are now high in fat (from nuts and coconut- it’s so great not to have to worry about saturated fat anymore!)

2016
Sugar Is Back– FODMAP friendly bars: We have come full circle with a new bar trend- the latest bar trend uses actual glucose syrup (and in the spirit of keeping it real—let’s all agree that corn syrup, tapioca syrup, brown rice syrup and glucose syrup are all the same thing-just because its not high fructose corn syrup doesn’t mean its healthier) The goal of these bars is to get the FODMAPs, an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, AKA poorly absorbed carbohydrates- that cause severe abdominal pain, bloating, gas and constipation. I shake my head and wonder—how is this different from the very same high protein low fiber, high sugar Powerbars we used to eat so long ago. Its not– its the same concept, with a brand new marketing twist! Powerbar should have marketed their 90’s bar to the FODMAP sensitive people!

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Source: Nicerfoods.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016

Allulose Bars: A new emerging trend on the horizon. Allulose is a natural rare sugar that is created in bulk by enzymatically extracting it from Non-GMO corn. Allulose is not a sugar alcohol and it is not a soluble fiber. It is actually a sugar, you just pee it out. It tastes great, it lowers water activity, it doesn’t cause FODMAP issues. Could allulose be the answer to our prayers? It probably will once consumers can be educated to understand that the sugar from allulose listed on a label doesn’t count – not much anyway. It’s about 0.29 calories per gram. The FDA has some recommended levels on it that may or may not be followed- we don’t really know yet because no one has actually put out any products with allulose—YET! That will change in 2017!

2016

Refrigerated Bars
It started with Core Foods (they were doing it back in 2009!) and now we have Perfect Bar– both bars don’t rely on high sugar (or sugar alcohols or soluble fibers) to lower water activity to inhibit mold—because they have the cold refrigerated air to keep the bacteria at bay. What a novel, new and exciting idea—refrigeration! Fresh Food! This emerging bar category is one to keep an eye on! A move away from bars that need some form of sugar (digestible or not) to keep it safe won’t be necessary if we keep it cold. A short shelf life will be involved though!

 

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Source: A Dancer In the Kitchen Blogspot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The energy bar world has evolved and changed over the past 10 years and we are now at a point where the trend is basically to eat and excrete. The less food from that bar that you eat and the more you push out of your body—the more popular the bar becomes. Bar entrepreneurs consider anything that is a fiber or sugar alcohol as not counting towards the net carbs- or they think it’s not going to be digested. (this is not totally true as parts of some fibers are digested –as the FDA is beginning to regulate-but no one really talks about that!)

2017 and Beyond

What’s Next

What kind of bar will be next—I have an idea! How about a RETORT bar— yes, this would be a bar that would be pushed into flexible pouch packaging, heated to 250’F to ensure no botulism and to make the product completely sterile. Water activity won’t be a concern, it won’t need refrigeration and pH won’t matter. It will be like the cans of tuna fish that are now in a pouch- on the shelf. Shelf stable retorted energy bars- you heard it from me first!

AIMG_6886nother IFT has come and gone – as I get older my show navigation skills have improved! I noticed this year that all the long timer booths (like David Michael, Kerry and Tate & Lyle) were located in the same spots on the McCormick floor as last year. I also am really good at finding the best freebie giveaways like the illuminated egg from Okaloosa, the beautiful green t-shirt from the honey board and flashing bracelets from Qualisoy. I should also mention that Qualisoy had a talented artist mold a head out of shortening. Not everyone may have caught this because it was way in the 4000’s aisle!

The real ongoing theme of IFT this year however was every food scientist’s favorite (and least favorite) topic—Clean Label! As a consultant who develops food products for both entrepreneurs and large companies I get frustrated when I am forbidden from using top notch functional ingredients because my client does not understand what it means, and replace it with something that kinda works, but maybe not as well- but comes with a word that is known to mere mortals (aka non-food scientists). Luckily I have ingredient trade shows like IFT and Supply Side West that give me the opportunity to explore and interact with the latest and greatest clean label functional ingredients that I can then introduce to my mortal clients who understand what the word means, and in turn put it on the “ok to use” list.

Ingredient trade shows like IFT and Supply Side link me up with the best clean label alternatives out there! For example—every time I make a dry powder mix (protein shakes, fruit powder sport drinks, pancake mix, cake mix) I need anti caking agents. The most popular anti caking agent is Silicone Dioxide. The scientists of the world know that Silicone comes from quartz and oxygen comes from – the earth. It’s as natural as can be, but to the uninformed mortals they are just eating “chemicals”. Well in come Ribose, a leading organic natural clean label rice based alternative. Their Nu-Flow anti caking agent can be used to replace SiO2 or the even dirtier “Tri-calcium Phosphate” (oh no, not CALCIUM!) with simple “rice concentrate”! Boom! Done! Everyone is happy! I feel safe in knowing my dry blend won’t clump and my clients can breath a sign of relief that no nasty chemicals that will offend their clients will be on their ingredient statement. It’s a win win situation.

Phosphates are very common in the cured meat in industry, used to retain moisture, maintain flavor. They increase the water holding capacity of meat by forcing proteins apart, allowing water to move in between the protein molecules. Most people don’t really know what this word means or how it functions—they don’t want to see it on the label. Luckily I found Prosur’s “PRS PHR”, an innovative clean label solution made out of yeast extracts (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, Pichia Jadinii) and citrus extracts. They have a synergistic effect on the solubilisation capacity of actomyosine, which boosts the water retention of meat in a more natural way. In layman’s terms—this works like a phosphate and translates to an ingredient statement that says: Yeast Extract, Citrus Extract. Yeast and citrus are clean, phosphates to the consumer are not.

TIC Gums is a true leader when it comes to clean label ingredients. Why? First of all, gums were never really un clean to begin with and many have been used for hundreds of years and everyone knows that if our grandmother used it then it must be clean since most people don’t have food science grandmothers. TIC has a great “clean label hydrocolloid” chart that they passed out, reminding food scientists like me that High Methoxyl Pectin can simply be called “Pectin” and Locust Bean Gum can be called “Carob Gum” and the hippies in the 60’s ate Carob instead of chocolate so it must be clean. High Acyl Gellen Gum can be called just “Gellen” gum. Some gums are organic, which translates scary sounding “inulin” to “organic agave or chicory”. Lots of confusion out there in gum world-TIC is there to help us legally relay the truth to the consumer. Unfortunately for ingredients like sodium alginate (AKA Seaweed!) there is no clean label- it is up to the manufacturer to educate their consumer that it is seaweed, organic compliant, non-GMO compliant and on the published whole foods compliance list.

All these companies and more will be exhibiting their functional and clean label alternative solutions to the food scientists that will be attending Supply Side West. I started checking out Supply side several years ago and wasn’t quite sure if it was just herbs, supplements or an up and coming IFT type show. Every year more and more ingredient companies are exhibiting at Supply Side and the show is almost beginning to outgrow the smaller expo exhibit hall in Vegas at Mandalay Bay. In the past I didn’t go to Supply Side very often as I felt it was very supplement and vitamin oriented, but now it’s one of my regular trade shows that I attend. I love that it is in Vegas too—lots of affordable hotels, great restaurants and nighttime entertainment.

This year at IFT there was an eye opening consumer panel called “A Clean Label Revolution”. Random consumers not from the food industry were actually on the stage and sharing their thoughts and feelings about ingredient statements and what they would and would not use. The message was clear—if consumers don’t know what it means or if there is unexplained fear monger attention surrounding it (like carrageenan or GMO’s) then they don’t want to buy it!
Clean label is no longer just a thing for the Whole Foods and artisan crowd- it’s becoming an everyone thing and the food industry needs to start doing a better job of educating the masses on what sodium chloride is and the differences between high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup, or come up with some brand new functional alternatives that have names our grandmother could have lived with. This is what happens when the food industry pretends like our food was made by Friendly Green Giants and Keebler Elves for the last 100 years- and consumers find out that it was actually made in stainless steel tanks in a factory by scientists and engineers. Yes, consumers now know the truth, that food is made in a scientific and methodical way in clean sanitary plants by people that wear hairnets and practice GMP’s. Time to educate, inform and fix it so we can continue to take advantage of past and future food science contributions to the functional ingredient world.

Oh, unrelated to the clean label trend –a few other cool things I saw at IFT this year was a new competitor to Genesis, a less expensive spreadsheet software program for nutritional analysis called Formulator. An edible vitamin cup from DSM and Loliware. Edible food wrap film from Monosol – a transparent, odorless and tasteless film that is biodegradable, dissolves in water reduces environmental waste. There was freeze dried high antioxidant purple corn from Suntava which was used to make energy bars that I ate for breakfast during the show. In the equipment world it’s all about recording results with the blue tooth pH meter from Hanna instruments. This is on my food science consultant wish list along with a not yet on the market but they showed it at Expo anyway—a unit that measures salt, acid, pH and brix all on the same unit from Atago. Can’t wait for this to come out, a must have for any laboratory!

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Years ago the only companies that made food products were large corporations that had teams of industry professionals in marketing, food science, microbiology, food safety and packaging. They made sure that the products they created tasted great, looked beautiful and most importantly were “safe” for consumption and made under strict USDA and/or FDA guidelines.

In recent times, many of the new food products emerging on the market are not made by big food companies, but by people that are from non-food science backgrounds like finance, fitness or medicine. They are created by people who have stories to tell about how the concept that they created in their personal home kitchen saved the lives of their kids who had, before that, been forced to eat products that contained GASP* sugar that came from beets and not from cane—oh the horrors of it all! Or they are created by the fitness professional who learned that his chocolate cake made from chicken protein isolate is the answer to losing fat and gaining muscle (hey that’s a pretty good idea right there!)

These saavy entrepreneurs with no experience in food science, food safety or microbiology often come to the conclusion that they can do it all on their own and they don’t need the expertise of those who have dedicated their lives to studying food safety and science. They furiously develop recipes in their home kitchen using non-scientific measurements like tablespoons and cups to measure out their recipe. They use ingredients that they picked up from whole foods like trail mix and flavored protein powders. They don’t take into account water activity, rancidity issues or potential staling. Packaging options are not even considered. Of course it’s not all their fault that they assume it’s easy to bring food products to market- after all, when was the last time you saw a documentary on food science or product commercialization? Probably never! The food industry is notoriously secretive on how it’s all done , they don’t want to scare the masses by elaborating on unpleasant sounding topics like preservatives, HACCP plans and third party microbiology testing. The only vaguely real life examples we see are cute short videos on the food network show “Unwrapped” which makes food manufacturing look like a Willie Wonka chocolate factory.

So back to our do it yourself entrepreneurs, who after they have concocted their amazing idea (in cups and tablespoons!) they call a co-packing facility and wonder why they don’t get a response or why co-packers are so impossible to get a hold of, or why no co-packers are jumping at the chance to test out their product and help them get it on the market. After all, this is the opportunity of all opportunities!

I have said this before—and written it many times but the madness continues. There is a reason why the co-packers won’t call you, the entrepreneur, back and that’s because they don’t want to deal with the entrepreneurs naïve understanding of the food industry. They don’t want to hold the entrepreneurs hand and explain the meaning of third party micro testing, and they don’t want to spend hours breaking down their costs, knowing they probably won’t be able to afford the minimums anyway. Co-packers get hundreds of calls a month and they can smell the novice from miles away.

So what is an entrepreneur to do in this day and age? My advice is to not try to do this alone! The second you have an idea on how to bring a product to market the first call should not be to your lawyer, web designer, or graphic design expert but to your food scientist! It doesn’t even have to be “your” food scientist, just go to the IFT.org website and find a local food scientist from their reach out program who can give you some advice, or attend a local IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) regional meeting and network with the experts. The IFT is an amazing information resource. They have free regional local ingredient trade shows, online links to information and more.

If you are an entrepreneur who wants to bring a new product to market, make sure you do your initial homework. Read up on food science and the food industry. Make sure you have funding and that you understand the safety and regulations surrounding the type of product you want to make. If you don’t understand then hire a guide or consultant that can help you get started. Sometimes there is a reason why your concept is not on the market, and it’s not because no one thought of it already! It may not be something that can be made safely, or it might be too expensive, or the ingredient you want to use (bee nectar from the rain forest) may not be readily available.

Everyone knows what a plumber does, what a lawyer does, what an architect does and we seek out those experts when their services are needed, because we know that we don’t have the time or knowledge to do it ourselves correctly. But yet, when it comes to developing food products- thanks to the secrecy of the food industry and the glossing over by fakeumentary TV, entrepreneurs are learning the hard way that it’s not so glossy after all.

 

As a food science consultant myself, I have heard all the horror stories and tales of food start up companies that didn’t research properly and spent thousands more than was necessary. Failed production runs, overpaying for lab tests and shelf life issues that could have easily been avoided had they just hired a technical expert to assist them. Simple tools that cost a few hundred dollars (like pH meters and refractometers) can help ensure consistency while you develop your idea, versus paying a lab to do it for you. Understanding how to use a simple spreadsheet to set up nutritional analysis (hey finance gurus turned food experts– this should be a walk in the park for you). Don’t rely on your co packer to assume that your first production run will be a success, and don’t blame them when your organic natural color solution turns black in month because you did not do your shelf life study (I wish I had a bitcoin for every shelf life study that was not done and subsequently lead to a failed launch- for the sake of expediting to market).

It makes me sad when I walk the floors of Expo West and Fancy Food Show and hear entrepreneurs tell me “if only I had found a food science from the get-go”. Well I am here to remind all those who are just starting out that they should do JUST THAT! Consider this the dime store advice that you will wish you took in 2 years from now.

Tomato Powd
Who said freeze dried fruit powders, foams and sodium alginate balls in fine dining is dead—?! Oops I may have said it a few years ago but clearly I was just thrown off by too much local bay area farm to table natural, untouched and unprocessed farmers market locally grown meals. This years World of Flavors conference reminded me of how much fun food can be and how chefs, especially chefs from Spain, should really have PhD’s in food science with all the research they have done to perfect their freeze dried tomato powder discs with olive caviar sodium alginate balls—AKA “Tomato Polvoron and Arbequina Caviaroli”

I had the amazing opportunity to eat at El Bulli back in 2011, right before it closed. At the time I had mixed feelings about the powders foams and gels on my plate- on the one hand I felt resentful that chefs were getting all the praise just because they were using food science ingredients that had been invented and discovered by the great food scientists of 100 years ago but on the other hand I was in awe of all the artistic food creations that could be made that the food scientist never explored because we were too busy trying to make sure that our salad dressing with xanthan looked as normal as possible in the supermarket. The chefs are artists when it comes to using industrial ingredients to create meals and food scientists are just very dry and practical about the whole thing.

The last few years the farm to table, free range, knowing the origin of the food theme has permeated the bay area like our thick fog! Most dinners are delicious but as Sara Deseran noted in her talk during the “San Francisco A City In Discovery” general session, that elite San Franciscans don’t like their food “messed with”- They like it as natural and recognizable as possible and ideally with no wasted stems, leaves or snouts left behind (that’s gets tossed into the special salad of the day!) I have to say, eating out over the past few years has not been anywhere near as exciting as it was back in the early 2000’s when I would eat tomato salads with ice cream vinaigrette dressing at Coi and edible paper at Moto (Chicago). If I want to eat a plate of beautiful sliced heirloom tomatoes, I may as well pick them up myself at the local farmers market! The Natural food movement is tasty but…well.. it’s kinda boring. How long can we talk about the life that our chicken had, before it ended up on the plate.

But my experience at World of Flavors reminded me just how fun the early 00’s were, and I was amazed at the creativity of chefs Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casanas and the demonstrations we saw based on the dishes from the restaurant “Disfrutar” (to enjoy) in Barcelona. These chefs used to work in the El Bulli kitchen and have the right skill, creativity and imagination to create dishes that are a beautiful blend of natural and non-existent in nature- at the same time. For example, how about that dish where they melted down gelatin and then reformed it into penne pasta—and then covered it in sauce and served the clear glassy penne with a creamy sauce. (for a more visual experience watch the video on the CIA livestream here)
How come I didn’t think of that—! Because molecular gastronomy, as it is incorrectly called, should really be called the artistic, creative fun and completely not productive uses of functional industrial food ingredients. Exactly the opposite of what food scientists do with those very same ingredients.

I was also very excited to see that exotic freeze dried ingredients on display—being sold in packages to chefs—but not the unexciting freeze dried peas and corn that we find in our instant cup of soup. Companies are now selling half slices of passion fruit and cherry tomatoes. Freeze drying is experiencing a brand new wave of existence in the U.S. with the recent introduction of the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer- chefs and soccer moms can make their own freeze dried foods at home.

If you didn’t make the conference this year, you should check out all the video footage that is available, for free from the CIA website. Starting with this 3-minute highlight of the show—you can almost experience the entire show from beginning to end thanks to Rich’s Food and Unilever Food Solutions—the very generous sponsors!

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Cricket Dumplings on the Menu RETHINK FOOD!

Last month was the yearly Rethink Food Conference held in November at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in St. Helena, CA. The conference addressed what, how and why we cook and eat the way we do—and what we will be doing (or need to be doing) in the future to improve our lives, our land and the animals that we eat.

Seminars and breakout sessions were a bit all over the place, making it difficult for a food scientist like me to pull it all together. Some topics like “Foods of Tomorrow” had presenters discussing sea vegetables, crickets and fermented foods which I could relate to as future protein sources, future under consumed ingredients that we can start eating—but other seminars like The Flavor Learning Curve, while interesting, didn’t seem to really fit the program and maybe belongs in one of the CIA’s other more creative culinary science conferences.

The speakers came from all areas of the food industry and included Kirsten Tobey, the founder of Revolution Foods, Sara Burnett, director of Wellness and food policy at Panera bread as well as local bay area chefs including Stuart Brioza (State Bird Provisions) and Courtney Burns (Bar Tartine). The wide array of professional food industry backgrounds all came together as each speaker shared their views on why we mistrust technology, robots cooking our food, and how food companies need to be more “transparent” in order to regain consumer trust. Preservation methods of the past are now being revisited in bay area restaurants as a way to be more sustainable (and healthy).

Some seminars were logical and I could see the connection between what was being said and what can and will be done- like the introduction of crickets as a protein source is a reality that we are already experiencing with companies like EXO selling their cricket bars—but other topics were still “far out there” like “Visions of the Future” that discussed how technology will shape how we interact with our foods.

The attendees were just as diverse as the speakers. Key players from McDonalds were there- as well as Google team members, chefs, and Ideo (one of the major sponsors), Coca Cola, and Chipotle Grill. Yes– the big chain companies are interested in making a difference!

An interactive group ideation session that was organized by IDEO allowed us to get into groups and brainstorm questions together while writing them on sticky notes—and using those ideas to come up with hypothetical finished technology concepts. A machine that analyzes what you eat and tells you its time to stop, or more biodegradable and edible packaging—(edible spoons made out of Sorghum). The video with all the team ideas can be watched online on the conference live stream: http://livestream.com/CIAlive/reThinkFood2015

This conference hit a lot of different angles and gave me (the food scientist) much to think about. Trying to understand the role of the food scientist in this changing landscape is challenging. The food scientist is usually just an executor of whatever the marketing and CEO dictates—as well as being a pillar for quality and safety- we rarely get a say in the bigger picture decisions and are mostly part of the execution. This conference served as an introduction to bigger topics that will affect how developers create and bring new food products to market.

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG_3401Can someone please tell me what is wrong with gums and stabilizers—and why did so many of the beverage entrepreneurs in the beverage competition at the BEVNET show (www.bevnet.com) refer to it as “filler”. As far as I a concerned, something used to help suspend and thicken at the 0.05% usage level that comes from the root of a tree is hardly filling up any space at all—we should be grateful that some genius food scientist was kind enough to identify it, isolate it, purify it and sell it in powder form so entrepreneurs don’t have to dig up roots and grind it themselves. But yet, the company MALK based their Bevnet winning pitch on the fact that their product does not have all those “fillers”.

I just got back from Bevnet.com and was amazed, amused and hydrated all at the same time. I was invited there by Draco, a company in northern California that sells whole fruit and vegetable extract powders, they asked me to speak on their behalf as an unbiased third party and educate attendees on functional ingredients.

While at the show I got to taste everything and make a mental summary in my mind of what is trending in the beverage world. First and foremost—coconut is not going anywhere any time soon—we no longer want just the water but we really need to drink in all that heavy coconut cream fat as well—MCT’s and other fatty acids are good for us!

Aside from that there were the usual interesting and exotic options like lemon juice with charcoal (to detox me), lots of coffee, lots of Kombucha and one drink that even claimed to work as a sunscreen if you drank it 30 minutes before going into the sun.

I love to report back on the trade shows I attend and this is one of the interesting ones. For a consultant like me I get to see what is new and interesting as well as connect with local ingredient suppliers and co packers. For beverage entrepreneurs, they get to attend classes, connect with suppliers and learn about how to commercialize and market beverage products. The BEVNET website is a wealth of information for anyone interested in reading about the beverage world. Up to date and relevant material!

For years I have been going to the IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) show because it’s the biggest ingredient show for food scientists and a great opportunity to source industrial ingredients like starches, gums, flavors, colors and organic ingredients. BUT for the last few years another ingredient show is slowly emerging on the food science scene.

The Supply Side show! Years ago no one except people in the vitamin and supplement world used to go to Supply Side, held every year in early October in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. But that is all changing as more and more ingredient supplier companies like David Michael Flavors, TIC Gums and Danisco/Dupont are slowly beginning to take over. As a matter of fact, one of my friends, a flavor sales rep who lives in the Vegas area told me he was SHOCKED at the new ticket price to attend Supply Side because in the past, “They had to practically pay people to attend”.

But as the old saying goes— where the ingredient suppliers exhibit the money from those exhibiting ingredient suppliers will follow — the organization that runs Supply Side (which also, I just learned runs one of the industrial food trade journals food product design) is realizing how much the food industry is growing and the big trend in start up companies that want to combine both food and supplements (why swallow a boring pill when you can have naturally nutrient infused full fat paleo style ice cream!?)

So it seems like every trade show I attend has a growing “ingredient supplier section” – like Expo West formerly a hippie all natural finished product show, now has a whole separate WING referred to as Engredia dedicated to helping those start ups find industrial ingredients (flavors, sweeteners, organic ingredients, gums, starches, vitamin mixes, gluten free flours) and co packers (private label energy bars, pouch co packers, bakeries). I think Expo West realized that if the show is to keep growing they need serious cash and ingredient companies have that kinda cash! It’s a win-win for everyone because not only can the small start ups in the basement of Expo West show their exciting new wares but they can then wander over and source out new ingredient suppliers as well.

Too bad Supply Side is only two days long, I could have wandered that show that show for several days! Here are a few interesting trends I noticed

Probiotics—dry form, powdered form, liquid form, shelf stable form. Yogurt is so 2010—we just need to mix it into a freeze dry powder now!

CBD’s– The NON psychoactive part of the marijuana plant. It gives you a body high and not a mental high.

New Age Ingrdients: Maca, Spirulina, Chia, Matcha, Hemp, Tumeric and Omega-3’s. Its not like these ingredients didn’t exist before but now they are slowly showing up as value added food ingredients.

Honorable mention and KUDOS to the ONE non-edible trade show exhibitor that dared to exhibit at an ingredient foodie show. The Health Mate Infrared Saunas! I had a chance to take a break and sit in their sauna box for awhile and rest my feet in their sauna foot box. The booth reps were extremely friendly and fun and they told me if any of my readers are interested in such an item, they will extend their trade show discount (just tell them you heard about their products through Rachel the food scientist). Sometimes its nice to have a booth where you can just sit and rest your feet without feeling like you have to talk biz with the booth owners.

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Supply Side West will now be part of my regular yearly trade show tour. The attendance fee varies but check in with me in 2016 and I may be able to forward you a pass from one of the kind vendors that offer up 2-day floor passes for $75. Rooms can be as expensive or as cheap as you want (just be sure to stay at a hotel that has tram or easy access to the convention center or else you will have serious taxi fees (Vegas just started allowing Uber and Lyft— the economical way to get around vegas!)