Category - Food-science

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The Fundamentals of Food Product Development

When a consumer purchases a packaged food item, they probably don’t give a lot of thought to how it was produced, let alone the process by which it came to market. On the other hand, the manufacturer has given a lot of thought to this process — having made significant investments in the product concept, formulation, packaging, manufacturing process, and marketing strategies to hopefully support a successful product launch.

Just how does a new food product come to market? The complex and dynamic process of new food product development begins with multi-disciplinary teams of food scientists and technologists, raw material suppliers, nutritionists, sensory analysts, analytical chemists, microbiologists, packaging specialists, food engineers, and marketing experts. Each discipline offers a level of expertise to assure the best odds of success for the new product in the market place. Product development takes place in stages where creativity and the principles of food science are applied – the physical, chemical, and microbiological composition of food, food quality, food safety, and food processing.  A food scientist specializing in food product development is a key team member in each phase.

An approach to new product development commonly used in industry has been developed by The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT):

5 Stages of Food Product Development

  1. Decide what the new product will be.  Brainstorm ideas to build and refine the product concept. Address requirements to take the product to market and viability of the concept.
  2. Discover the target consumer and product niche.  Identify competition, consumer needs, and ways to make the product unique by performing a competitive product review. Develop and conduct screening market surveys with the target market to determine if they will actually purchase the product.  Conduct formal focus groups to determine how the product might be perceived by target consumers.
  3. Define which ingredients will be in it. Establish key attributes such as taste, texture, color and source ingredients accordingly. Consider shelf life requirements. Take into account packaging materials and how the product will be labeled.
  4. Develop everything about it.  Develop and evaluate a prototype by comparing it to competitive products or an existing gold standard. Evaluate ingredient functionality to determine if the technical realities of the product meet the marketing goals. Include sensory testing to assist in achieving the target product. Address regulatory issues associated with food labeling and the manufacturing process. Continue with product refinement, costing, manufacturing considerations and final selection of packaging materials.
  5. Deploy.  Finalize the formula, product name, graphic design, and marketing strategy. Consider available distribution channels, shelf price, and profit goals.

To learn more about food product development and how food science impacts the foods you eat every day, visit The Institute of Food Technologists at

Kathy Lewis, MS RD is a food scientist and registered dietitian with 20 years combined experience in food product development and regulatory compliance.  Ms. Lewis can be reached at or 303-513-5737.