The Relationship Between Food Testing and Product Development (And Why It's so Important)
Regardless of the food product you’re developing, food manufacturers all share common goals – to produce structurally sound products of the highest quality, to offer foods that are competitive in taste, nutritional value, and price, and to ensure every product that reaches the consumer is 100% safe. It doesn’t matter how skilled and experienced your production team is – the only certain way to remain in compliance, protect your valuable consumers, and achieve success with your new product is through a rigorous food testing and analysis process.
The importance of food testing for new products
During the development of any new foods, testing must occur to gain a clearer understanding of the product’s performance and compliance to its label. This is crucial to a food manufacturer’s overall success. While the ingredients of each product are well-documented in any facility, nuances arise during manufacturing and must be accounted for to ensure the best, most accurate information about specific attributes that may affect product performance.
Analysis of vital product traits
A thorough food analysis involves numerous tests. These tests identify and measure pertinent product characteristics that not only indicate how well a developing product will perform but also determine if it is in compliance. The testing process should include:
- Nutritional values to reduce labeling risk and provide tangible quality monitoring
- Product quality measurements to prove the product is acceptable to consumers in terms of nutrients, microbial levels, safety, appearance, texture, and more
- Process variability studies to indicate areas of variability in your manufacturing process and enhance cost-efficiency
- Shelf life and product performance determinations to ensure quality, longevity, and customer satisfaction
- Functionality of physical attributes analysis to examine particle size, texture, color, moisture isotherms, and more
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What to expect from food analysis
First and foremost, each test used to analyze a new product depends on the type of product itself. That means a unique combination of food testing should be applied to each individual product, and there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all analysis process for your entire lineup.
However, regardless of product, every food testing process shares commonalities that are vital to the safety and success of developing foods. For instance, food safety tests for contaminants, mycotoxins, pesticides, and microbiology, as well as analysis for protein, vitamins, carbohydrates, enzymes, fats, and other food characteristics, should always be included in your food testing protocol.
In addition, nutritional label testing should be conducted to ensure compliance with the latest U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, which are revised regularly and should be tested accordingly. The latest FDA clarification, for instance, applies to honey, maple syrup, and other single-ingredient manufacturers and determines how the sugar content in the product should be correctly displayed on the label. A company’s failure to adhere to something this simple can result in fines and serious consequences to its reputation, which is why nutritional label testing is standard across all developing food products.
Immediate outcomes of food testing
By ensuring new products pass these tests, manufacturers can produce pre-sale samples to ensure their consumers receive a safe and satisfying product that will bring their business success for years to come. They’ll also be able to understand any inefficiencies in their production process, as manufacturers with multiple plants often uncover different transfer points at each plant, and those values must be adjusted to confirm values for their suggested targets.
A process that cannot be rushed
Depending on which product is being tested and the specific tests to be administered, all food analysis tests require different lengths of time to generate results. On average, it can take up to nine business days for the test to be completed and for you to receive your results. You can prepare for and understand the timeframe by visiting Medallion Labs’ test library or by calling 1-800-245-5615 for more information.
Though these turnaround timeframes ensure thorough testing and accurate results, many manufacturers are tempted to speed up the food analysis process any way they can. The phrase “time is money” comes to mind, as some worry that if an analysis isn’t finished quickly enough, it could affect their bottom line. But in reality, the more time you invest in the food testing process, the better off your bottom line will be in the long run. Moving too quickly puts you at risk for making costly assumptions about results with insufficient information. It could also mean running the wrong tests or not knowing which tests are best for your product. Both of these instances result in the same consequences – wasted time and resources, the need for extra work to correct the error, and unnecessary stress from an oversight putting you behind schedule leading up to your product’s launch.
Best practices for food sample preparation
After your food analysis testing is complete, it is time to move on to the next phase in product development, which involves preparing food samples for distribution. Food samples provide an excellent opportunity to learn even more about your product’s performance and gain valuable feedback and insights about where your manufacturing process or ingredient selection can be improved.
As with any aspect of developing new food products, your food samples must be produced with the utmost care and attention to detail. One method for doing so involves making sure that your facility utilizes meticulous recordkeeping, allowing you to distinguish your samples and label them appropriately. Other best practices include:
- Ensuring a full understanding of what you are testing to determine the best use of your product
- Working with your plants to understand their collection points and align all data
- Preserving a fair amount of the sample products in a safe place in case the need for further or repeat testing arises
The food testing support you need
Developing new food products is not a simple task, and you’re not alone if you feel like the food testing and analysis component of the process puts added strain on your already busy team. That’s why more and more manufacturers are partnering with Medallion Labs. You can consider our team a line of defense for your products and consumers, as we have developed a time-tested process backed by 150 years of experience to maintain the integrity of your brand.
Medallion Labs also supports manufacturers who are developing new products long before food testing begins. We provide consulting during the early development stages of new food products to offer insights into your most valuable testing opportunities and when analysis should occur. Connect with us today for more information on how our services will help you successfully bring your new product to market.
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A food testing program designed with mid-market and enterprise food and ingredient manufacturers in mind.