by Kelly Hensel
It is becoming increasingly common for food scientists to be inspired by the culinary world and vice versa. At this year’s IFT/RCA presentation on Sunday, June 12, a chef and food scientist from Bruce Foods shared how they are bringing together their respective fields to enhance the product development process. Chef Nick Landry (photo, left), Corporate and R&D Chef, kicked off the presentation by explaining to the audience what the chef can bring to the table.
Firstly, chefs by nature and training understand the use and interaction of flavors and ingredients. They also have experience in food preparation for retail and foodservice environments. Finally, they can add value through customer service, such as providing recipes and advice on how to use the product in new and unique ways. On the other side, food scientists enhance the working experience by bringing their appreciation for product testing and control, their knowledge of shelf life, nutrition, and packaging, and their experience with staging up products to full-scale production.
Joe Orr (photo, right), Food Scientist and Director of R&D, described how he was able to work with Landry to develop a new sweet potato side dish for Bruce Foods. Orr began by explaining the challenges they had to face for the project. These included, shelf life, appearance (color, texture and viscosity), and the flavor. The key to beginning any product development project is to “know your core competencies,” said Orr. This includes the competencies of the company and the abilities of yourself and your coworkers.
In the case of the sweet potato side dish, Orr and Landry knew that Bruce Foods is really good at canning, so they decided to go with a canned product. They then worked together to tackle the flavor profile, color optimization, improve the texture, among many other facets of the project. “We wanted to create a canned sweet potato product that would appeal to consumers as a side dish all year round,” explained Orr. And by each of them offering their different backgrounds and skill sets, they were able to create a product that is now on the market and will hopefully lead to many other successful product line extensions for Bruce Foods.