Understanding the New Product Development process
Food Technology teacher Sandy Goonan used the opportunity provided by her Endeavour Teacher Fellowship to focus on gaining a deeper understanding of the New Product Development (NPD) process as used in industry. She worked through the NPD process to develop a new yoghurt base with the potential to be suitable for the EasiYo product range.
When Sandy was awarded a two-term Endeavour Fellowship in 2011, she wanted to focus on understanding NPD as used in industry. This continued the learning begun years earlier in preparation for implementing the new Technology curriculum (2007). Sandy's main focus area and passion had been Textiles and Design, and in 2006 she was fortunate to be involved in the Growth and Innovation Framework – Technology Education Beacon Practice project with colleagues in her department and at Saint Kentigern College. One of the main objectives at Carmel College was to introduce Food Technology at senior level within the school and to promote relationships with technologists from industry, and the wider school community. This was catalyst that led to her new interest in the Food Technology area, which she has fostered with many of her students.
Sandy was hosted by Massey University (Albany) during her Fellowship and had the opportunity to attend university lectures and presentations. The second-year lectures on product development and innovation were, she says, particularly useful, "Because that was all quite real, and information I could take back to the classroom."
She also attended third-year food formulation lectures and sat in with fourth-year student groups working on their own product development. "It was really interesting, seeing how those ideas developed and the products they were working with." She went on site visits to various food and beverage manufacturers with these students, which provided additional insight into industry practice and reinforced relationships to the curriculum.
With a link already established with EasiYo (as client for one of her Year 13 students), Sandy approached the company and suggested she might work with them also. Food Technologist Bon Koo and Nutritionist Tracy Zhao agreed to mentor Sandy as she worked through the NPD process. Discussions with Bon led to Sandy deciding on her initial brief, 'To develop a vegetable-flavoured yoghurt base that has the potential to be marketed by EasiYo Products Ltd'. Her constraints included having to meet EasiYo requirements, allergen policy and company philosophy, and comply with NZ Food Standards and regulations.
Sandy first researched different NPD models used in industry. She discovered that the process isn't too different from that used in schools, and decided that the model that could best be adapted to classroom practice was five stages:
"The first three to four stages of this model work particularly well within a food programme," says Sandy, "depending on the context students are working within and the Achievement Standards being assessed. Although they are less likely to reach the 5th stage of commercialisation, having this knowledge is important for students' understanding of NPD in industry."
Sandy researched yoghurt-based products available on the New Zealand market, existing products containing vegetable/fruit combination flavours or ingredients and then products available on the international market. She used this research to analyse current and future product trends, finding that these included mood foods, flavour trends, health benefits and wellbeing trends. She followed up this analysis by conducting some research on consumer preferences through talking with owners of retail food outlets and beverage bars and observing their customers. This backed up her previous findings in showing that consumers were looking for health and nutritional benefits, and sports and wellbeing enhancement. China has the second-highest number of new product launches in the dairy market, so Sandy also considered developments and key trends there. She found that the most common promotional claims in dairy products were 'no preservatives', 'no sugar' and 'high calcium' – reflecting similar concerns in other countries.
Finally, Sandy looked at EasiYo's target market, which is diverse although purchasers are more likely to be women buying for families. She then researched the technical constraints and factors for consideration during development of a new yoghurt product which included the EasiYo manufacturing process, ingredients, allergens, price and final formulation weight.
The research informed Sandy's revised brief – it was decided that the initial idea of vegetable-based yoghurt was unlikely to have wide consumer acceptance without the addition of fruit or other familiar flavourings. She considered other ideas and possible flavour combinations, and then carried out trials using ingredients supplied by EasiYo and those sourced from ingredient suppliers that she had previously contacted. Either a natural or vanilla base was used in trials (natural for a fresher taste and vanilla for a sweeter, dessert-type formulation). After informal sensory testing and further consideration of her preliminary research, Sandy selected six product idea concepts: pumpkin and spice; carrot and berry; beetroot and fruit; honey, ginger and mint; raspberry and citrus; rose, vanilla and spice. She had a rationale for each concept – these included the availability of ingredients, consumer trends, potential for inclusions and potential as a set or drinking yoghurt.
Following the concept trials, Sandy came up with six final concepts:
- Pumpkin, vanilla and spice.
- Carrot and berry.
- Beetroot and pomegranate.
- Rose and cardamom.
- Honey, ginger and mint.
- Raspberry, coconut and lime.
Further consumer research
To determine the acceptability of the product concept ideas, Sandy ran two focus groups. She first had to apply to the university human ethics committee, for approval to do so. This was a formal process which would include the running of the focus groups and the formal sensory testing carried out in the final stage. Sandy was fortunate, in that a PhD student with experience in working with focus groups was able to facilitate both sessions for her. Eight participants in each test were shown concept boards and discussed each concept before tasting the formulation. They were asked to consider appearance, texture, flavour, their perceptions of the product and suggestions for improvement.
Based on feedback from the focus groups, the most popular product concept ideas fell into three separate yoghurt types:
- Vegetable/fruit-based yoghurt – beetroot and pomegranate.
- Drinking yoghurt – rose and cardamom.
- Yoghurt with inclusions – raspberry, coconut and lime.
Sandy discussed the results with Bon, Tracy and Marketing Manager Zahra Woodroffe, with all agreeing that the three concepts would fit well with EasiYo's existing product range and that little modification would be needed. It was decided that, since the original brief was for vegetable-flavoured yoghurt, Sandy would take that concept as her final idea and use it in a sensory test. The beetroot and pomegranate concept would require special marketing to attract customers to the idea of a vegetable yoghurt product, so to make the idea more acceptable the names were swapped and the concept became Pomegranate and beetroot drinking yoghurt.
In finalising the formulation, Sandy had to calculate the nutritional panel, at which stage it was observed that the calcium content wouldn't meet the necessary recommended daily intake percentage for the UK market. This required extensive reformulation to replace the whole milk powder in her original concept with a combination of whole milk/skim milk to reach a minimum target of 120 mg calcium per 100 g of made-up yoghurt.
Sandy conducted Just About Right sensory testing, in-house at EasiYo and in the sensory lab at Massey with staff and students. Participants evaluated two formulations of the pomegranate and beetroot drinking yoghurt for colour, texture, creaminess, sweetness, sourness and flavour. Most found the flavour combination unique and interesting, with both samples scoring well on the scale. Fortunately, the most preferred sample was the new formulation that met the calcium requirements.
Having worked through the NPD process and met her brief, Sandy reflects on her fellowship time. "The research and the experiences provided valuable insight and knowledge into the NPD process."
The opportunity, she says, enhanced her knowledge of the NPD process used in industry and gave her a much broader understanding of the progression from initial product idea through to final product launch. Sandy has also gained valuable background knowledge of the food science that underpins so much of any product development. These new experiences will all have a direct relationship on her teaching programme, her students' practice and their links to the Technology curriculum.