Save money without compromising your product

By Martin Whitworth - 30 April 2018

Increasing competition, rising ingredient prices and value-conscious shoppers are squeezing profits in food manufacturing. But it can be challenging to cut costs while maintaining quality and ensuring the texture, flavor and appearance of your product remain the same.

Manufacturers need to find innovative ways to reduce costs and find savings in their supply chain. Ingredients and processing are two areas where manufacturers can do this.

Cut ingredient costs

Changing specifications or substituting with cheaper ingredients offer significant opportunities to make savings. However, product developers must have a thorough understanding of food chemistry and the synergies between ingredients and processing to successfully alter a formulation. In particular, they need to have a good knowledge of the physical properties of their product during processing and the effect on its final structure. Structure and texture are intimately linked so anything that changes the structure of food risks changing the perceived texture and whether consumers like it. Changes in the source of ingredients or seasonal variations may have unforeseen effects on final product quality, even when basic ingredient specifications are met. The good news is that there are some highly effective techniques – like measurement of rheology, particle size, colour, thermal properties, and CT imaging of product structure - to help guide product changes

Ensure specifications are fit for purpose

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to replace an ingredient with a cheaper one. Even if a cheaper ingredient from a new supplier meets your ingredient specifications, are you confident that these ensure it will perform correctly in your process and that the final product quality will remain the same?

Conversely, it’s possible that you could be over specifying. We sometimes find that manufacturers are paying for specifications that don’t add value. When we query the reason for the specification, their response is commonly “this is how we have always done things”. These ‘over specifications’ are prime targets for cost savings. We can design bespoke tests to check how the cheaper ingredients will perform, which will enable you to remove unnecessary, more expensive materials and replace them with less costly counterparts with the reassurance that your product quality won’t be affected.

Processing savings

When things go wrong during processing it can lead to production downtime and drive up ingredient and product waste. The source of these processing problems can often be traced back to issues with the physical characteristics of the ingredients. Examples include, holes in bread, sedimentation and separation of liquid mixtures, moisture migration over shelf life, changes in product texture or colour, poor flow or non-uniform distribution of ingredients. Again, modern imaging and analytical technology can pin-point the cause to troubleshoot these types of problems.

Over a series of blogs, my colleague, Dr Sarab Sahi and I will explore how measuring the structural and physical properties of your ingredients and products can also improve product quality and troubleshoot problems, as well as provide cost savings. In the meantime, if you have any questions please do get in touch.

About Martin Whitworth

Martin has worked at Campden BRI and its predecessors since 1992. He has an MA and PhD in physics from Cambridge University, and an impressive number of food research publications from his time with us. He currently provides support and peer review for our research programme.

Martin specialises in physical characterisation of food products and ingredients including colour, structure and texture, with particular expertise in the application of imaging techniques and digital image analysis.

Martin has experience in cereal science and technology. He is a leading expert on bubble structure of doughs and baked products. He established our imaging laboratory, now part of our Food and Drink Microstructure team, which includes DigiEye colour imaging, hyperspectral NIR imaging and X-ray micro CT. He was the inventor of the C-Cell instrument for measurement of bread quality, and pioneered the use of X-ray tomography to study bread and cake structure during baking. He also carried out the initial research that led to the Branscan and Fluoroscan instruments for flour quality analysis.

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