Specialty Food Magazine


Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 110 of 139

BY ANDREA LILLO Y ou spent hours crafting your sweet potato-filled chocolate drops at your kitchen table—the results of which are devoured by your friends. You dream of bringing your homemade specialties to store shelves—but how hard can it be? Harder than one usually thinks, said experts when asked about the roadblocks faced by entrepreneurs as they set about making an idea commercially viable. Industry experts share factors to consider when scaling a product commercially. Product Development 101 "Everyone thinks their idea is going to be simple to develop," says Barb Stuckey, president and chief innovation officer at food developer, Mattson, in Fremont, Calif. However, "product devel- opment is by definition a messy business, because you're creating something from nothing." Most entrepreneurs have passion for their product, but many lack an understanding of how realistic or scalable it is commercially. They usually "don't account for actual costs," says Jeff Grogg, found- er and managing director of JPG Resources, a food business builder in Battle Creek, Mich. They might sell their products for $3 each at the farmers' market and think they can do the same at a supermar- ket, he says. However, they usually don't consider how much labor they themselves are putting into it, the hours they are driving, the costs of distribution, and promotions, and more—all critical aspects to bringing a product to market. Stuckey agrees. By the time entrepreneurs "hire a broker, find a distributor, and a retailer—each of whom mark the product up— the price is a lot higher than they thought they'd have to charge to make a profit." Ingredients are another consideration as they can react and interact differently at commercial levels, says Amanda Kinchla, assistant extension professor/food safety specialist at the food sci- ence department of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. For example, air that integrates into a product can change the product's density. Startup companies usually use the ingredients they have on hand "as it takes time to source ingredients for their fin- ished products," says Evan Hyman, director of Bridgewater, N.J.- based Ingredion Inc.'s Emerging Business division, which recently launched to address the needs of f ledging companies. However, "the ingredients originally used do not work well in a regular production environment." The sooner an entrepreneur can figure out and account for these factors, the better—and less costly—it will be. "It's easier to fix problems when you're only making 1,000 units [a month] rather than 100,000," says Grogg. Food Safety Is the Priority Another critical piece of product development is food safety. "All foods can kill," asserts Kinchla, and as the product is developed one must identify which obstacles to manage—and reduce those risks. Many supermarkets—particularly local ones—want to sell the latest products, particularly as the trend now is to offer items that are as fresh and close to the source as possible, says Grogg. So, some products don't go through the validation process they should. Food safety also encompasses the growing awareness of aller- gens—something that wasn't thought about when he started in the industry 25 years ago, Grogg adds. "Now one has to control for allergens throughout the system." Safety should always be a priority, even if it means the death specialty food maker 108 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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