Flavor development has gone virtual. People want new flavors and we have a process that just might be easier than a face-to-face meeting. Try out our virtual development and tasting sessions to see for yourself.
A Taste of the New Normal
I am sure you are feeling it. The world has changed. The way we customize new foods and flavors and offer product taste tests have too. Back when things were “normal,” we’d invite you and your team into our Culinary Design Studio (our “CDS,” aka development center). Here you could watch and give feedback while our food scientists worked to develop customized flavors, just for you. We’d also invite you to our Flavor Gallery to sample dishes made using one or more of our most popular product lines.
Currently, the days of gathering with a face-to-face meeting are few and far between. We understand, and we respect the boundaries of social distancing. Not only are many of our team members working from home, but we’re also interacting with our customers differently. Hopefully, soon we can once again invite each other into the kitchen. In the meantime, our world has gone virtual. Fortunately, we have long embraced technology and are here willing and able to work with you for custom flavor development.
Virtual Development Is Nothing New to Us
At Summit Hill Foods, we’ve been conducting virtual food and flavor sessions for a long time, because it’s not always feasible for customers to visit us every time. When we expanded our development center a few years ago, we included technology for video sharing, knowing that our customers may not always be able to bring their entire team to Salt Lake City. We were doing video calls before they were “cool.” And that has let us serve our customers’ needs no matter the physical distance. So many of our customers have commented with accolades like: “It’s as good as being there in person!” and “Your team didn’t miss a beat – these flavors are incredible, especially without us being able to get there in person!”
Business today has changed with the advancements in technology. With live-stream video chats, 4K video cameras, email, phone calls, personalized web pages, YouTube and overnight shipping, it’s almost as if there are no limits. Building professional long-term relationships and making food flavorful are things we can do now successfully online. (Yes, we have even heard there are apps in development where you can lick your phone for a taste! Of course, our process is not quite yet that advanced.) However, we do believe that we are light years ahead of where we were just a few years ago. And with just a few simple steps, we are still working hand-in-hand with our customers to develop custom flavors to meet their needs, in a timely manner, and get solutions in their hands quickly.
Our Virtual Development Process
The process is surprisingly easy, especially when you don’t have to book a flight, hotel or car rental to have a face-to-face conversation. In fact, we have simplified it to just a few simple steps.
STEP ONE: A Conversation
Let us know what your application and flavor ideas are. We’ll ask questions like what’s the intended finished food item. How much flavor product will you be needing (our low minimums might surprise you). We’ll want to know the flavor profile you have in mind, the color, aroma, texture and any ingredient requirements like Kosher, organic or gluten-free. We’ll ask about storage requirements. The cooking temperatures your ingredient will need to endure. And the list goes on. We explore these questions, so we can understand your needs and share how that will affect things like packaging, production times and pricing to reach the best end result.
STEP TWO: Sample Creation
Based on your flavor ideas and specifications, our team of chefs, food scientists and culinary experts will get together (virtually) to strategize the best way to meet your needs. Ingredients may need to be sourced, our regulations team might need to be consulted, and finally, we will begin to make prototype samples that we think might be the right fit for you.
Our chefs and food scientists start by creating a sample based on the requested flavor profile. This could be a base, sauce, dip, marinade or something else. Flavors, after all, come in many forms.
Our goal is to get the first sample as close to ideal as possible. However, taste, texture and consistency are relative, so there is always room for interpretation.
STEP THREE: The Virtual Tasting Session
Once we are satisfied with the sample(s) we have created, we’ll set up a date and time for a video conference to taste them together with you. We’ll overnight samples to you, and we’ll send you a list of instructions on how to make the dishes in your kitchen. Or, we’ll follow your specific instructions and technique on how you’d prefer the dish is prepared. We will be making the exact same dishes in our kitchen, in preparation for the tasting.
Then… we’ll taste them together via a live-stream video conference.
We will want to know what changes, if any, need to happen to get the flavor just right. Maybe a hint of lime, perhaps a little less ginger or perhaps the color needs a tweak. Is the texture correct? Does the product work for the intended application? This is a rinse-the-palate-and-repeat step until that flavor is perfect and has your approval. Doing this in a virtual development session enables us to make changes on the bench with you “present” and get the finished flavor on its way for final approval.
Our talented team can perfect a new customized flavor within a few weeks or even days to get customer approval. We’re proud of this fact, as the industry average of developing new flavors is usually months.
STEP FOUR: Testing for Large-Scale Production
Once a new flavor is approved, the next step is to ensure its scalability. Ingredients for a small one- to five-pound batch might act differently on a larger scale. To ensure the integrity of our customer’s product no matter the batch size, we test it in our USDA Certified pilot plant and make adjustments, if needed, to ensure scalability and quality. Following a successful pilot plant run, the item is then ready for full-scale production.
We’re proud of our award-winning GMP manufacturing facilities. We are flexible in packaging sizes and containers as well as production batch sizes.
STEP FIVE: Delivery
We’re partners with DOT Expressway as well as multiple shipping and transport companies to ensure you receive your new products on time and fresh by working with refrigerated or frozen transport carriers.
Now Is the Perfect Time to Launch New Flavors
Food brings people together, even in today’s environment. Offices are holding virtual lunches, friends use Zoom for dinner and cocktail nights, and families are sitting together for meals with both parents as they may now work from home. Food is emotional, and new flavors bring excitement and satisfaction to life. Now is the perfect time to launch new flavors through virtual development.
The foodservice industry initially fell on hard times as social distancing rules were set in place. This impacts the industrial manufacturers who serve these restaurants and other foodservice establishments with lower supply orders and lower profits for all of these organizations. As things have begun to open back up, people want prepared meals either through a delivery service, a drive-thru, and in some areas, the actual restaurants. Many people are still opting for home-cooked meals.
Meal kit companies are growing by delivering the ingredients and directions to consumers to cook “chef-created” meals at home. Their customers are asking for comfort foods, as well as unique flavors. Ongoing flavor development is a must to meet these needs.
Industrial manufacturers who serve the frozen foods market are seeing consistent growth as well. They are filling the grocery shelves as fast as they can produce products. Consumers of these end products expect quality and are always interested in trying something new. In addition to grocery, many industrial manufacturers serve national chains of quick-serve and fast-food restaurants, which are preparing to add new menu items as well. Having a great food flavor development partner is critical for successful launch.
People are craving normalcy and good food, making exciting new dishes in demand. Virtual development is currently the best solution to fulfilling this need. The good news is the process is simple, and moving forward, it might even become the preferred method of development.
Still Business As Usual
Virtual flavor development doesn’t have to be a complicated process. In fact, we’re confident you’ll be pleasantly surprised how fast and easy the process we’ve set in place truly is.
When you find yourself in a position of needing a new flavor for your restaurant, meal-kit company, industrial manufacturing or other type of foodservice industry company, reach out. We’d love to be your flavor development partner. Contact us to schedule your virtual session today!