Flavors and seasonings are an important consideration for snack foods around the world. They enhance the products and provide appeal for different consumer segments. Topical seasonings rely heavily on the contribution of flavors to reduce the usage of more expensive commodity items or enhance their flavor. The overall snack-food product development process is described here, from concept selection through seasoning development, consumer testing and commercialization. Many of the comments are broadly applicable to the development of processed food products and should give some level of insight to flavorists with regard to customer processes.
Projects are often initiated by identifying an unfocused concept or small group of complementary concepts for development. The genesis of concepts can come from a variety of inputs. Focus groups are often held with users, non-users or target consumers to get narrative input on flavor possibilities for a product line. Often these are initiated with some draft-concept boards and sometimes employ rough product prototypes.
The positive aspect of focus groups is input from consumers, while the possible negative impact could be that reports are often heavily skewed by the opinion of the moderator or ranking marketing person associated with the project. Competitive products with proven consumer acceptance often provide a target. No one likes “me too” projects, but they are a fact of life in a competitive environment. Complementary products also come with positive affirmation of consumer acceptance of a flavor idea. Concepts also come from studying cookbooks, restaurant trends and regional or ethnic cuisines. A lot of projects come from what I term “divine inspiration”; directed objectives which flow from that wellspring of consumer wisdom, the senior staff. Most treasured should be concepts that are supported by quantitative consumer feedback. The likelihood of success is better if a few hundred consumers say the objective is a good idea than if they say it is not.