Whether driven by the need to capture more market share or changing regulations, food processing companies use research and development to create new products and processes. For example, Sargento expanded its cheese-focused business to include new products like nuts and chocolate. Athens Foods created gluten free phyllo dough, and Lundberg Family Farms added more products like frozen bowls and tortilla chips. These changes earned the companies the 2019 R&D Teams of the Year designation, according to the magazine Food Processing.
These innovative companies are just a few of the pioneers in the food processing space. What are the major R&D trends shaping the industry right now?
The Push for New Development
The processed food industry is a highly competitive industry with thousands of different businesses vying for their share of the market. That many businesses means competition is fierce. Nearly half (43 percent) of Food Processing’s 2019 R&D Trends Report respondents reported experiencing steadily increasing pressure to get products to market more quickly.
That pressure can be attributed to that stiff competition from companies large and small, as well as private label offerings, according to the Food Processing Trends Report. R&D teams are being pushed to produce new ideas so they are not left behind, according to the report.
Finding New Ideas
Where do food processing R&D teams get their ideas for new products? The majority (78 percent) turn to general market research, according to the Food Processing Trends Report. Some of the biggest areas for new ideas in food processing could be:
- Functional food. Products that fall into the functional food category offer added health benefits beyond basic nutrition, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Products with added probiotics and plant-based products could be two starting points for companies looking to innovative in this area.
- Healthy options. Related to functional food, many food processing companies – even big names like Hershey and General Mills – are looking at developing healthier products, according to Food Dive. Products with clear labeling that highlights health benefits also plays into another major industry trend: the consumer demand for transparency.
The R&D Team
New products are clearly an important piece of food processing strategy, but who is actually responsible? More than half of companies report having a formal product development team, according to the Food Processing Trends Report. The report lists key players on those teams, including research and development, marketing, manufacturing, corporate management, purchasing, consultants, suppliers, and finance.
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