Your Secret Development Partner: Ingredient Vendors
As food product developers, our supplier relationships are vital to our success. We need suppliers to keep us up to date on new ingredients, industry happenings and most importantly, to provide ingredient samples to move our work forward. Did you know, though, that your ingredient supplier might be an untapped development resource for you? In many cases, that ingredient sales person you’re so used to trying to get off the phone with has an arsenal of technical assistance at the ready to help you with your projects.
How It Works
Now, granted, the salesperson supplying those ingredients likely gets paid on commission. The more they sell, the more money they make. To this end, your first rule when working with a vendor who might have technical expertise and even R&D services at the ready to assist you is to be respectful of your representative’s resources. Be ready to discuss your project in as much detail as you can, without giving away trade secrets or breaking confidentiality agreements.
Begin by doing a little research about your vendor prior to picking up the phone. These days, most food ingredient companies provide a considerable amount of capability information on their websites. You might be surprised to find that most ingredient vendors have onsite labs, food technicians and chefs on staff to help you solve your development challenges. For instance, you may find that an antimicrobial manufacturer can conduct baseline shelf-life studies for you or a flavor company that will offer in-depth flavor training.
It’s a Two-Way Street
Once you’ve identified what your vendor might be able to help with, you can line up your information in a way that will make the conversation easy. Item that might be useful include:
- The product category
- pH, brix and any other known analytical measures
- Allergens and other ingredient restrictions
- Claim and certification desires
- Processing steps, such as cook time and temp
- Shelf life goals
When discussing these issues with your vendor, be clear about where you are in your process and what information you don’t have for them. Oftentimes data like projected volumes, co-packer information and exact production process aren’t at your fingertips and this is okay. You just need to be sure you are direct and upfront about this in the beginning. Remember, your vendor rep is interested in making a sale. So, open, frequent and honest communication is very important. You’ll also want to be upfront about your needs, timing and expectations. Because most vendors provide their R&D services free to their customers, they can find themselves backlogged with projects. Be sure you know what to expect and when so your project doesn’t go off the rails waiting for information.
A Win-Win Situation
Working with vendors to develop world class food products can be a great way to ensure success. It is important to let them know enough general project information to gain their trust and support without relaying confidential information. Ingredient vendors want your project to be successful just as much as you do, because it means you’ll buy more of their ingredients. Be respectful of their time and resources, and you will find invaluable development partners for your product development projects.
For help with ingredient sourcing for your project, contact us today!