Consumer demand is leading manufacturers to bring not just new products to the shelves, but a crop of entirely new eating occasions: From healthy pre-packaged or frozen meal alternatives to complete meal replacement like protein powder and shakes, consumer preferences are driving manufacturers to create a larger variety of contemporary products.
On top of this, consumers have also come to expect a culture of choice that offers:
More natural, organic ingredients within product formulations.
Additional details on ingredient sources and manufacturing standards for product claims, such as gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan, and locally-sourced ingredients.
Clean labeling standards that offer simplified ingredient and avoid artificial ingredients.
Although contemporary products often offer fewer but purer, organic ingredients, the move towards simplicity and multi-use function within food and beverage formulations often results in complex changes for product development and innovation teams.
Manufacturers must be able to not only update existing product lines at the ingredient level to align with these preferences and eating occasions but also test and launch innovative products at appealing price points. Coordinating the entire product lifecycle to launch products that anticipate new consumer behavior requires both product innovation on the market and process innovation within the supply chain to make it happen. Here are three main areas of process changes that can expedite innovation timelines.
Enable faster reformulation of existing products
From using more natural sucrose sources and integrating probiotics to creating more heart-healthy margarine, manufacturers across the board are reformulating tried-and-true products to contain a better nutritional profile.
Reformulating existing products for simplified or organic ingredient lists might look streamlined on a consumer label, but pivoting quickly to get new products on shelves without starting from scratch requires manufacturers to have a complex data structure in place.
Remain competitive through reformulation means being able to:
Quickly review previous trials and prototypes created across the enterprise to understand current nutritional profiles
Compare prototypes and select a new winning trial as fast a possible.
Improve multiple products at once with an ingredient-level reformulation.
Checking new formulations and ingredient properties and percentages against regulatory limits.
In short, manufacturers need a birds-eye view of ingredient usage across hundreds of formulations and a cost-efficient method for sourcing, determining and using other alternatives to react to consumer preferences and create new. That’s often tough to do when innovation portfolios, R&D activities, lab processes and trials, and labeling activities exist across different internal workstreams.
Increase testing speed and accuracy for innovation ideas
Launching products for new types eating occasions, such sports protein gels packed that contain a full serving of daily vitamins and act as meal replacements, will require manufacturers to set up their internal operations for more multi-functional and faster team collaboration.
It all starts with connecting downstream processes to R&D activities when scoping out the viability of new product innovation ideas. Integrating project deliverables from labeling, regulatory, quality, packaging and marketing into new product trial and testing processes not only cuts down on product launch times, but it also:
Reduces busy work and keeps R&D scientists focused on trials, not data gathering or data entry errors.
Introduces more predictability into product trial stages and anticipates regulatory and quality issues before product manufacturing.
Creates faster and more accurate collaboration around new product requirements between Marketing, R&D, Procurement and more.
Increasing innovation speed across product lifecycle--but in particular at the R&D stage--requires a backbone of centralized product data management and trials that can be tracked and used across numerous different product lifecycles.
Improve oversight of supplier data and processes
Updating formulations and revamping internal operations for innovation speed is only half the battle. Manufacturers need to go right to the source to ensure that raw materials from suppliers and vendors also meet updated ingredient requirements and brand values for clean labeling, product claims, and regulatory standards.
Manufacturers not only need to gather more detailed information around raw material additives and vendor QMS processes from the start, but they must ensure vendor standards remain accurate over time.
Modern vendor management that supports innovation requires:
Digitizing and formatting supplier questionnaires to understand specific business practices around additives, sustainability and more.
Implementing regular checks on raw material standards and setting reminders for vendors to send raw material information.
Tracking the history of supplier communication in one place.
Directly integrating supplier data into product specifications for more accurate data use.
Powering innovation starts with forecasting trends and tracking product lifecycle costs over time, but it also relies on deeply connected and efficient product development processes that can respond quickly to consumer trends. To stay competitive, manufacturers that can expand their product portfolios and launch without increasing the cost of and burden on innovation, formulation, vendor management, and commercialization activities will succeed in bringing new eating experiences and products to the market.