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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Andrea Lillo is a New York City-based freelancer. of a good idea. Kinchla once worked on a project to develop glow- in-the-dark beverages for kids, but the plan was nixed after she was unable to find GRAS (generally recognized as safe) ingredients that would glow. "If you're new to the world of food, it would be wise to hire someone who knows how to build food safety into your product from day one," Stuckey says. Items with short shelf lives—such as refrigerated foods and produce—are probably the most challenging, notes Stuckey. "Without the cushion of a few months of shelf life, it's hard to grow a business from a grass roots level. It's feasible—it's just expensive and risky," she says. If an entrepreneur is working in a commercial or co-manufac- turing environment, he or she should ask about what's needed to function there from a food-safety perspective, as well as who else is working there, as there could be cross-contamination issues, says Hyman. He also notes that some categories—such as baby food— have a much higher food-safety risk than others. A product might be "cool and interesting, and fine for the home or a restaurant," says Grogg, but once it goes commercial it has to survive 30, 60, or 90 days on the shelf. How the product will be packaged is another challenge, as there are so many options, each with their pros and cons. Glass is popular, for example, Kinchla says, as it's a natural material and looks sleek— but it also "introduces hazards, as it is breakable and heavy." Kinchla herself has had "duels" with business partners that fell in love with a packaging that wasn't appropriate for the food. And that's a common problem—entrepreneurs can get distracted from the product's top attributes, says Kinchla. Ongoing Innovation But even with these hurdles, food and beverage categories are com- pelling in their diversity as entrepreneurs continue to innovate. "We have seen disruption in categories that many did not think were ripe for remaking," such as yogurt, popcorn, and jerky, notes Hyman. "You have to nail the product for a specific consumer, because there are dozens of competitors who will be more than happy to take shelf space from you if your product isn't good enough to get con- sumers to buy it a second, third, fourth time," says Stuckey. "Today, it's really about excellent execution as much as it is about the idea." 4 THINGS FOR FOOD ENTREPRENEURS TO KNOW With so much attention paid to the food category, entrepreneurs can seek guidance from many sources. 1. Get as much product feedback as early and often as possible. Reach out to family, friends, and actual consumers, says Evan Hyman, director of Ingredion Inc.'s Emerging Business division. Demo-ing the product "could lead to significant consumer insights about how it will perform and what the overall consumer reaction is." Research—and talking to a lot of people—will let you know if the product fills a need, agrees Barb Stuckey, president and chief innovation officer at Mattson. 2. Use university food development programs. Some available programs include UMass Amherst—whose food science department will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year—and the Rutgers Food Innovation Center in New Jersey. 3. Look to business incubators for commercial space. Some include The Hatchery in Chicago, Foodworks in New York, Union Kitchen in Washington, D.C., and Foodstarter in Toronto. 4. Start out in a commissary set up, making products by hand, advises Stuckey. As production scales up, move to working with a co-packer that has automated manufacturing. The more information food entrepreneurs arm themselves with on the development journey, the better the outcome will be. specialty food maker This article, the first in a series on Product Development, deals with entrepreneurs bringing a product to market. Future stories will address product development strategies for more advanced makers. To learn more about Product Development, sign up for the Specialty Food Association's Business Summit, in Dallas, April 8-10. Visit specialtyfood.com/summit18 110 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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