Pilot plant

The pivotal role of the pilot plant

By Emma Hanby - 21 March 2013

Large numbers of new products are launched on to retailer shelves every year. New products keep the market exciting and innovative, enticing consumers and in turn adding volume and profits for food and drink manufacturers.

The new product development (NPD) process can often be arduous; if not approached in a structured way it can drag and be very costly. A number of NPD approaches have been tried and tested over the years and all involve a process to 'kill off' failures early in the process, to prevent costs from escalating. Common approaches include the following steps: strategy, bench/kitchen development, scale up, factory trials and commercialisation. All of these stages should include a decision making process, where the NPD team decides whether the product is viable before moving on to the next stage of development.

The pilot step is pivotal in linking small scale development to full scale commercial production. Pilot equipment is flexible, and trials prevent interruptions to production, allow 'what if' scenarios to be explored, prevent undue waste and provide an opportunity to assess production implications. During pilot trials the ingredient specification can be confirmed and the product can be tested for consistency, allowing us to ask the key question: "Is each product the same?". A further vital part of the pilot trial stage is determining and challenging product safety.

Whether developing food and drink products - alcoholic beverages, bakery products, short shelf–life chilled or long shelf life ambient products – pilot trials are key to the NPD process. Ingredients and technologies can be explored to help control production costs when ready to commercialise. After the pilot stage, if the product is successful the waste and costs have been kept to a minimum and the product has been challenged to support its commercial success.

We have over 3000m2 of process facilities to manufacture a broad spectrum of food and drink products using pilot equipment. These include a dedicated pilot bakery, specialist facilities for malting and brewing, and process halls for developing fresh, chilled and heat preserved foods as well as equipment for chilling and freezing. To further support this we work closely with our chemists, microbiologists and sensory scientists to help our client develop high quality, safe products. Whatever your product, and whichever stage of development it is at, we can help, so call us to discuss your options.

Find out more about our food and drink processing facilities.

Emma Hanby, Head of Service Management
+44(0)1386 842262

Contact an expert