Problem: How can I shorten the time required to formulate with specialty ingredients?
Solution: Specification sheets may not tell you everything you need to know about a specialty ingredient. Working with your ingredient supplier is the fastest way to a complete formulation.
Your application is unique, and basic usage guidelines for specialized ingredients might not work right out of the box. But your R&D team should not have to do foundational research when trying a new ingredient. Here are 10 ways to get more when working with a supplier:
1. Request documentation and pricing up front. Tis will reveal any issues with allergens, certifications, manufacturing, etc. Tere’s no point in doing R&D if the ingredient can’t be used in your facilities or is too expensive.
2. Share your goals with your supplier. Tey should help you understand how their ingredient can help you reach your goal. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to reduce costs? Clean up a label? Improve quality? Knowing your goals will allow you and your supplier to establish reasonable project expectations, reducing the R&D timeline.
3. Anticipate problems before you run your first trial. Ask the supplier, “What are the most common quality differences I will see? What do I do about them?”
4. Ask the supplier, “What critical elements of my formula impact your ingredient’s performance?” Specialty ingredient manufacturers should know what other ingredients impact the functionality of theirs. Different types of flours, fats, emulsifiers and sweeteners can have a big impact on how a specialty ingredient works in a batter or dough. Sometimes the answer the supplier gives will sound counterintuitive, but it will be based on their experience working with their own ingredient.
5. Don’t settle for foundational R&D. If the supplier has a lab, lean on them to cut down on the number of trials to run. Tey should have already researched how their ingredient interacts with other ingredients, such as flours and emulsifiers. Your supplier may also be able to suggest ingredients from other suppliers that work well with their ingredients. If they don’t know the answer, chances are they are willing to do some R&D on your behalf. Because if you need to know this, then the supplier’s other customers probably do, too.
6. Share the results of the first and second trials in as much detail as possible. Even a quick picture taken with a cell phone and texted to the supplier can help them diagnose quality issues and eliminate many baking trials.
7. Let your supplier do 80% of the work. Expect them to provide base formulations, baked samples and possibly a complete formula. Seeing a formula prepared by the ingredient manufacturer will reveal a lot about their capabilities and may help you decide whether to add them as a vendor.
8. In replacement projects, if you cannot provide your own formula to the supplier, consider providing a complete dry mix minus the ingredient you are replacing and one or two other key ingredients as suggested by the supplier. Include detailed preparation instructions and a sample of the finished product for a control. Tis arrangement gives the supplier flexibility when making adjustments and leaves you in control of your proprietary formula.
9. As you encounter quality issues, know that the supplier has probably seen similar problems before. Don’t assume the ingredient “just doesn’t work in my application.” Sometimes the solution is simple. A capable supplier will know if there’s an easy solution, potentially saving you many steps.
10. Consider asking the supplier to work with you in your lab, maybe even to be present at your first pilot-scale production run. Seeing the supplier work with his ingredient will round out your understanding of its functionality, likely reducing the support needed for other projects in which you may use it.
Specialty ingredient manufacturers accept that their “cost of sales” will be high, and the selling cycle may be 12 to 18 months or more. Tey have much to gain if they can help you incorporate one of their ingredients quickly. Use this to your benefit as you prepare for and execute a formulation project.
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