Tyson Discovery Center Cooks Up the Future

Tyson's soon-to-be-completed research, development and training facility is a $52 million commitment to continuing product excellence.

By David Feder, R.D., Managing Editor

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Stage 4 is the test market phase. According to Carper, "Manufacture begins here and additional history is obtained on the product, leading to improvements, manufacturing optimization and any other necessities."

Finally, Stage 5 involves a national launch. In this stage, Team Tyson develops and implements a fully integrated marketing plan that stimulates the initial trial of Stage 4 with the goal of leading to repeat purchases.

"Consumers are very clear in maintaining high expectations for a Tyson product," says Carper. "In other words, it must be a quality product that tastes great and is safe and nutritious. A key part of our product launch success is also listening to consumers and customers and then translating their unmet needs into viable meal solutions for themselves, their guests or their customers. We seek to ensure we are delivering on customers' expectations of us throughout our extensive research initiatives."

Fundamentals of success

So, with the new product out where the rubber meets the road, what are key indicators of a successful new-product launch? "Obviously trial and repeat are fundamental to new product success," Carper answers. "But also, creating a product with 'buzz' is important. We want customers, consumers and the media excited and communicating positively about our new products."

Another measure of success for the food giant is industry response. "We have received numerous product awards from our foodservice customers throughout 2005," says Carper. "The awards recognize specific new product development and innovation and include products across all the proteins: chicken, beef and pork."

How long the product stays in the market at acceptable volume and margin shows promise for long-term viability. It also supports the overall view of Tyson in the marketplace. "As the world's leading protein provider and with our brand image of trust and quality, consumers are receptive to Tyson entering new food categories where we are currently not present. Consumers expect Tyson to be a category innovator," Carper says.


Tyson's approach to R&D involves focusing on several key steps, according to R&D senior vice president Hal Carper:
  • Upfront formula work perfected to improve flavor, texture and moistness of an existing product.

  • Large scale CLT (Central Location Test) used to evaluate new samples, current product and competitors' products.

  • Descriptive panel work used to create a map of each flavor and texture profile.

  • CLT results used to gauge success of formula work, immediate implementation or further improvements. Descriptive panel work was used to guide further revised prototypes.


Tyson employs a Stage or Phase Gate Process to manage new product development:
  1. Team formed with marketing, R&D, plant operations and market research to brainstorm product improvement attributes.

  2. Formulations developed to improve flavor and texture of the products.

  3. In-plant testing preformed to determine cooking rates, temperatures and humidity to produce the best product.

  4. Central Location Test (CLT) designed to test improved formulations with 150 consumers for each cell, divided across six cities. Test quantities determined and assigned a three-digit code. Testing matrix and timeline also designed.

  5. Schedule created with manufacturing; necessary ingredients and packaging materials ordered.

  6. Competitor products acquired by sales department.

  7. All internal products run and labeled.

  8. For refrigerated products, a two-week rest period is put in place.

  9. Physical attributes (such as chemical analysis, piece-size distribution) on each test and competitors' product collected.

  10. Sensory attributes (flavor and texture) mapped for each product using a trained sensory descriptive panel. Spider graphs used to report results on all products.

  11. Sufficient quantities of each product shipped to test locations.

  12. Respondents review "finalist" products in a randomized design. Multiple observations per product collected to provide statistically valid results.

  13. Once test results received, clear "winners" are scheduled for immediate formula changeover. Temporary label approval granted with existing packaging on nearly all varieties to make conversions to marketplace as quick as possible.

  14. Test products that do not score statistically above either the control product or a competitor's product are reviewed to propose further improvements.

  15. Revised products prepared and reviewed by R&D and marketing before submitting to the trained sensory descriptive panel.

  16. In most cases, iterative testing with the Trained Sensory Descriptive Panel is used to determine when product attributes had been moved significantly closer to the improved target.

  17. Once iterative changes are "dialed" to the proper point, product improvement is implemented for commercial products.

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