Editor's Plate: A message from your ingredient vendor

Ingredient suppliers want to be called into your product development process as early as possible. It wouldn't hurt to include other disciplines as well.

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By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

I had such fun with this approach three months back I decided to do it again.

 

The Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and expo is a great place for the product development folks in our readership, particularly the food chemists, to meet and learn the latest from their ingredient suppliers.

This year’s show was held in July in Las Vegas. Despite the obvious interaction between food processors and suppliers, I provoked the ingredient vendors a little further to ask them what points they’d most like to drive home – with the attendees at IFT and with those in our readership who didn’t make it to IFT. Here are their top four suggestions.

1. Call us into your product development process as early as possible. "Ingredient suppliers have technical expertise not only on their own ingredients but often times on many food applications that are available to and could be of value to food processors,” says Rudi van Mol, group VP-marketing & strategy at SunOpta Ingredients, Bedford, Mass. “The more [food processors] are willing to share objectives for new applications with ingredient suppliers, the more they could be surprised with how much ingredient suppliers can help them.”

Don’t forget, some of these ingredient suppliers are bigger than you are. There’s a wealth of knowledge at these firms, large and small. Wouldn’t you consider some help from a $13 billion firm? "At ADM we have an enormous portfolio of ingredients at our disposal, so we have a great understanding of the interaction and functionality of different ingredients within a food system,” adds Graham Keen, vice president-corporate marketing for ADM, Decatur, Ill.

2. Consider ingredients that offer multiple benefits and functionality. "In the market for nutritional foods, the best food ingredients not only provide brand-enhancing benefits like an appealing look, taste and real nutritional value, but also help to ensure ease-of-processing, good taste and food stability," says Wendy McCall, food and beverage global marketing manager at Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, Tenn. "These ingredients can really help food processors and brand owners to build and maintain consumer loyalty."

3. Don’t be afraid to bring other disciplines into the ingredient-specifying process. A number of exhibitors said they would welcome the chance to talk to not just to the R&D folks but also to finance, plant operations and other departments. "Marketing shouldn't be afraid to interact with ingredients suppliers," suggests Joe Lombardi, marketing programs manager for food ingredients at National Starch, Bridgewater, N.J. "Bringing marketing into the discussions with ingredients suppliers would allow for the development of far more innovative ingredients solutions, enabling you to create greater consumer differentiation and value in your new products."

4. Although a couple of people voiced No. 3 in various ways, this final one is solely from Lombardi again, and it’s a gem: “You can't win by matching the other guys!” he says. “Allow ingredients suppliers to help you define your target consumers' preferred products.”

You can use all the help you can get, right? These firms have built up a lot of internal smarts and they’re dying not just to make the sale but to impress you with all they know. Put them to use.

Watch for Reader's Choice ballot

I give you another reminder that electronic ballots should be coming in October to those of you who have given us your e-mail addresses. This awards program is unique in our space in that you pick the best suppliers of ingredients, equipment and other services. All we provide is a blank ballot with no suppliers’ names on it.

So please fill out the ballot when you get it. If you haven’t already given us your e-mail address, call it in to Theresa Braeckman (630-467-1301, ext. 333) or e-mail to her at tbraeckman@putman.net or otherwise tell us how we can get you a paper ballot. Only food processors are eligible to vote.

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