Ask any food scientist what they do in between their new product development projects and they will typically answer…. “cost reductions”.
Food manufacturers are under constant pressure to lower their ingredient, packaging and processing costs and the responsibility usually falls over into the R&D group. Cost reductions are challenging because the goal is usually to keep the product tasting the same, keep the ingredient statement the same, preferably keep the “order” of the ingredients the same — but at the same time, make the product less expensive.
Before you start replacing all your tomato paste with starch, there are some tricks and techniques that can be done that will save money and not affect flavor or ingredient statements.
One technique is commonly referred to as “concentration”. This is when you remove the water from your product (like a sauce for example) and sell it to the customer in a concentrated state. You save money because you are no longer shipping water from Oregon all the way to Toronto on a refrigerated truck.
Of course, there are some drawbacks surrounding the end user knowing how much water to add back but if instructions are clear then the savings will be worth that extra bit of store level training.
Removing Salt & Sugar
Another cost reduction technique (typically with dry spice blends) involves removing the sugar and salt from your spice blend. Both sugar and salt are fairly inexpensive, but when your seasoning supplier adds it before shipping directly to you , you are not only paying their premium price on commodities, but you are also paying them to blend it, mix it and put it on a truck.
Since many spice blends have quite a bit of salt in them, that’s going to be a regular heavy load to ship across the U.S. You are better adding the salt and sugar to your final batch at the production facility. It will save you money and the time cost of adding in those ingredients will be minimal.
Natural or Artificial Flavors
A third cost reduction method is to replace some of the expensive ingredients with a natural or artificial flavor. For example, if you have created a strawberry beverage with an expensive natural strawberry puree, you may want to cut the cost of the product by reducing the fruit puree and adding back some natural flavor to maintain strawberry notes.
Need to lower the pH of your sauce or want to just give it more of a tangy flavor? Adding lemon, lime and other fruit juices can work well but can get expensive. Using citric or malic acid will allow you to maintain tangy flavors without affecting your final cost.
The goal is always to maintain your products flavor and quality but saving some money on cost.
Always be aware of the impact of your ingredient switch-outs to make sure they don’t affect your products marketing message. For example don’t switch out molasses with high fructose corn syrup since many consumers may not want to eat high fructose corn syrup.
About The Author
Rachel Zemser is a Certified Culinary Scientist, with experience and degrees in both food science and culinary arts. She has a BS in Food Science from the University of Massachusetts, an MS degree in Food Microbiology from the University of Illinois and a culinary arts degree from the New York Restaurant School/Art Institute.She has been working in the food industry for 18 years in both technical and creative roles and has been widely published in trade journals like Culinology, Food Product Design, Prepared Foods, The World of Food Ingredients and Food Processing. She spent 3 years at Unilever working as a microbiologist, 5 years at Kagome Inc. as their R&D chef and almost 3 years at Plum Organics Inc. Rachel’s home base is in San Francisco but she spends most her time all over the U.S. working with both large and small start up companies assisting them with their food science and R&D. Rachel’s work experience can be viewed on LinkedIn and she regularly tweets about the food industry.