Food Scientists Should Take a Cue from Big Pharma in Order to Gain a Competitive Advantage

Food and Beverage

When it comes to food, I have a short attention span. What I like today is different from what I liked yesterday. Apparently, I am not the only consumer who changes preferences regularly. Global trends such as obesity, an aging population and access to foreign markets are driving increased consumer demands for new flavors and different types of foods at grocery stores as well as restaurants. For example, Chobani managed to disrupt the entire yogurt industry when it introduced a new take on an old receipt with its “Greek” yogurt mixed with fruit.

Food Scientists
An ELN can help food scientist become more productive.
Image source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration via wikimedia.org

Competing within this ever-evolving environment is no picnic. It requires responding quickly to changing consumer trends with “hit” new products, all while complying with stringent food regulations. Even when a product is successful, the margins can be razor thin, meaning that even one failed product can have a substantial impact on a company’s bottom line.

However, if a food and beverage company would like to attempt to experience the same level of success as Chobani, they do not need to rediscover some long lost recipe from the past. Instead, they may want to borrow an idea from successful firms in the pharmaceutical industry: implement an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN).

The main benefit obtained from an ELN is the ability for food scientists to spend more time on product development rather than data entry. As food scientists “experiment” with ingredients, trying to find a winning combination, they keep track of their progress, typically within a paper laboratory notebook.

Unfortunately, the reliance on the tradition paper laboratory notebook may actually be hampering the development of new products because of the tediousness of the process. Taking the time to handwrite results into a paper notebook reduces the amount of time that could be spent on further product development. Even the updated process of printing results and pasting them into the notebook can still be incredibly time-consuming and clunky. Over time, this inefficient method can take its toll on productivity and innovation.

However, the implementation of an ELN allows food scientists to focus on creating great products rather than on recording data. This is possible with the ability to interface with food laboratory equipment, allowing for the automatic importation of data and results. This reduces the amount of time food scientists spend on manually recording data.

Other benefits a food and beverage company would gain by switching to an ELN include the following:

  • Document Management – The research and development process can generate as many documents as it can actual products. An ELN allows all of the documents related to a project to be kept and stored in one place including communication with the client.
  • Approval Workflow – Many food and beverage laboratories use a formal stage/gate process during product iterations. A well-designed ELN will allow laboratory directors to automate the process through documentation routing and electronic signatures.
  • Track Recipe Versions – Another feature available with an ELN is the ability to track versions of formulas as they are entered and modified within the product development process. Tracking this information is particularly valuable if, for example, an issue arises with formula 26 and it’s necessary to revert back to version 18.

The best way to ensure success in the food and beverage industry is to focus on developing new products, not entering results in a notebook. Although ELNs were originally developed for use by pharmaceutical companies, they have many valuable applications in the food and beverage industry as well. This ultimately saves time and allows foods scientists to do what they do best – focus on creating new products to meet consumer demands and evolving preferences.

For more information regarding how the Accelrys Notebook may transform workflow processes within your food and beverage laboratory, please visit our website today.

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