FBIC: the journey from concept to shelf

From an Expert's Perspective

This month, we hear from Ana Cristina Vega-Lugo, PhD, Scientific Manager with the Food & Beverage Innovation Centre (FBIC).

How can you predict the success of a novel and creative concept?
We all wish to have a magic ball to be able to tell if the launch a novel food and beverage product will be profitable and a solid step for business growth. Even though food scientists can’t see the future, they keep certain steps in mind to minimize the risk of failure in developing and commercializing innovative products. Read on to learn more.


Can you take your product from concept to shelf?

How can you predict the success of a novel and creative concept? We all wish to have a magic ball to be able to tell if the launch a novel food and beverage product will be profitable and a solid step for business growth. Even though food scientists can’t see the future, they are able to conduct feasibility studies to minimize the risk of failure when developing and commercializing innovative products.  Feasibility studies for innovative food or beverage products must cover at least the following areas: Food safety, regulatory compliance, formulation, and processing scale-up, financial analysis, marketing analysis, packaging, distribution, and storage assessments.

Is my new product safe?

The safety of a product depends on the microbial history of each ingredient, as well as on the microbial impact of the necessary processing steps. Initial food safety assessments at the concept stage are critical to determine the feasibility of the concept. Food safety assessments are unique for every product since they depend on specific ingredients and processing steps. If the product is not safe, it cannot be launched or produced, and therefore reaches the end of its life cycle. It is important to note that the selection of suppliers is critical to ensure the safety of the product, as well as identification of key processing steps for microbial control. Here at Niagara College’s Food & Beverage Innovation Centre (FBIC), we work with senior food safety experts who conduct the necessary assessments for every product we work with.

Is my new product in compliance with the current regulations?

When developing new products, the following questions need to be answered: where will the product be produced? And where will the product be sold? It is crucial to understand the regulations that apply to the product of interest according to geography and business growth intentions. Businesses need to ensure that the ingredients and the amount of ingredients are in compliance with the appropriate regulatory bodies. In addition, it is necessary to confirm that the manufacturing facilities have the required licences and certifications. And furthermore, label and claim reviews are critical for the smooth success of the commercialization and growth of innovative products.  

Is my formulation and processing suitable for commercial scale-up?

Food and beverage innovation is necessary for business growth, however not all delicious products can be manufactured at a large-scale. Sometimes, the ingredients that provide a “fresh” or “authentic flavour” cannot be produced at a large-scale facility due to microbial contamination risks, availability, stability, and other factors. If these problematic ingredients cannot be replaced by “standard” or “commercial ingredients” without affecting the organoleptic quality of the products, the journey of the large-scale launch comes to an end. Sometimes, the ingredients are approved for scale-up, but the processing or method of preparation cannot be scaled at a larger size due to intense labour and/or unique “craft” processing, or simply due to equipment limitations. If the processing cannot be scaled up (craft processing), there is no future of growth for the product of interest; however, in some cases, it can be produced and sold at lower volumes for specific target/niche markets.

How much am I going to sell my product for? And where?

During the concept planning of developing new food and beverage products, it is important to answer the following questions: Who is my target market? Where should I sell my product? Who are my competitors? What is the cost of materials, production, distribution, storage, and retail? Is my product appealing for the target market considering current trends? Do I have a business plan? What is the required capital investment? Preparing a business plan, as well as conducting cost and marketing analysis, enables a focused product development journey that leads to a successful launch.

How am I going to package, store and distribute my product?

Edible processed goods require labelling and packaging for the purposes of identification, traceability, and preservation during storage, distribution, and retail shelf location. Due to that, it is important to understand the type of packaging required for the product, as well as all the costs associated with the food process chain from production to shelf. This knowledge will also contribute to determining profitability.

Feasibility studies, considering all areas above, at concept stages, enable clear visualization of the required capital investment and the potential of commercialization. These studies also help with decision making while minimizing risk, and increasing the chances of a successful product development, launch, and commercialization.


Interested in learning more about our innovation project possibilities?
Explore our website, and contact David DiPietro, Research & Innovation Manager, Business Development, at [email protected].