Everyone likes to be a shining star when it comes to food innovation, but product development is a team effort, especially when developing retail products. There is more at stake than just taste. Manufacturers must consider consumer safety, accurate nutrition listings and even appealing package designs.
This kind of comprehensive effort requires open lines of communication—a tricky task when so many different teams are involved in the process.
Consider these three ways you can improve communication during product development.
1. Idea Brainstorming
This is really the heart of the development process. Food innovation teams develop products that are both practical and trendy. New products or designs must appeal to consumers and be cost-effective to produce safely. Each person in the team brings something to the table, whether they create recipes or develop marketing strategies.
When you first start pitching new products, put everyone together in one space to generate ideas. A food product that works perfectly in the kitchen may fail to pass muster with safety experts. If each section of the team attempts to work independently, you waste time figuring that out.
But you don’t have to worry about getting everyone in the same room.
Technology is allowing businesses to overcome the many obstacles to getting necessary players in the same place at the same time. Your production supervisors can oversee a virtual meeting with chefs, analysts, safety managers and marketing experts even when the team is spread over multiple continents.
2. Create Concept Samples
Once the brainstorming evolves into practical ideas, give everyone a taste, then meet again.
Food is a very personal experience. This means each person on the team will have an opinion to offer. Allowing them to sample different product options provides insight to how well received a recipe will be in the marketplace. Tasting also takes a concept and makes it real for everyone working on the new product.
Retail can take a page out of the restaurant handbook where this technique is used when adding dishes to their menus: Each staff member, from kitchen team to servers, will sample new foods so that they can associate a taste experience with a product name. This has the added benefit of giving chefs feedback on the dishes before they are served to diners. If the general consensus is the food is too salty or spiced, recipes can be tweaked prior to the release of the new product.
3. Develop a Critical Task List
This creates a path for the development of the new product, so everyone is on the same page. The critical path should highlight key tasks such as:
- Recipe development
- Supply purchasing
- Technical engineering
The list assigns responsibilities and creates a practical timeline. The goal is transparency. Product innovation is a complex process, but a critical path list takes the guesswork out of developing and manufacturing a new item.
A critical path listing is a necessity when bringing partners into the project, as well. Whether looking for financial stakeholders, technical analysts or manufacturers, the list gives them an organized look at both your team structure and the product development timeline.
After distribution of the list to the team, hold a meeting to make sure all elements of production are covered. This group analysis of the process will eliminate any holes in the plan.
In the end, a team approach requires stellar communication.
As manufacturing food can be more complex than the average consumer product development, so too can the team. Once your product development manager gets the ball rolling, everything from food safety to product distribution becomes a group effort.
Food innovation is big business. It is a combination of enterprise and food science. When manufacturing food in a retail environment, you can add product development to that mix, as well. To stay competitive, you must constantly be revamping the process and product line. And without communication, your team will waste time and money creating poor products that add little value to the brand.