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What is food product development?

8 min read
Group of diverse people working on a new product

Recent developments within the food industry and emerging trends, such as plant-based foods, are forcing food product manufacturers to adapt and revitalise their product development chains. 

These kinds of major adaptations are always driven by fierce competition between food product development companies within the industry, and this means that new food product developments are a crucial step for bringing the most innovative products to the consumer market. 

So, what is food product development and what is the typical food product development process? This article explores and breaks down each of the six phases within the food product development cycle to enhance your understanding of the entire process. 

Generating new ideas

Arguably the most important step is idea generation – you won’t have anything to launch without any ideas. The goal of idea generation is to come up with several ideas that can form the basis of your strategy for product development. It is important to keep in mind that this stage is not about producing instantly foolproof ideas that are ready for sale and implementation. Rather, these ideas can be written down, worked on, and discussed later. 

It is important to arrange brainstorming sessions where solving customer problems is the priority – just what is the goal of your product idea, what gap is it filling in the market, and how can you make it successful? 

Be sure to invite staff from all departments such as sales and marketing to be a part of this session, too. This way you can get a broad scope of opinions from different experts. Give these team members a platform where they can record their ideas. And remember, almost no idea is a bad one, as an obscure idea could provide that lightbulb moment you all need for the food and drink product development process.

Perform a SWOT analysis

Once you’ve generated and vetted your list of ideas, it is time to choose the ones which are poised for success. For a new food product development idea, having a proof of concept (POC) is essential as this will help to verify the feasibility of the idea – bringing everything into perspective and determining whether or not this product will actually work on the market. This will also help to prevent you or your team from pinpointing an idea which isn’t a good idea to focus time and resources on. 

A SWOT analysis, which analyses the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats which come from your idea is a fantastic tool for any new food product development. Your SWOT analysis table should look something like the following: 


  • What is the competitive advantage of this idea?
  • What resources can we dedicate to it?
  • What are our best-performing products?


  • What areas can be improved upon?
  • What are our worst-performing products?
  • Are we lacking resources anywhere?


  • What technology do we have which can be dedicated to this idea?
  • Is there scope to expand our core operations?
  • Which new market segments can we begin to explore?


  • Are there any new or upcoming regulations which could threaten this idea?
  • What do our competitors do well?
  • Is there already an existing product like this?
  • What consumer trends could pose a threat to this idea or our business?

See if your idea is worth it with development and testing

Before getting started with the whole food and beverage product development process, creating a detailed version of the idea and user stories should be given priority. By completing these, you can quickly identify any glaring problems in the development process, meaning you can correct them earlier. 

The concept development steps should include the following: 

Quantifying the gain-to-pain ratio

It is important to create an insightful picture of what your new food product development will look like from the perspective of your customer. This can be quantified by calculating what is known as the gain/pain ratio:

  • Gain: the benefits of your products to your target audience. Why should they buy it?
  • Pain: the efforts made by your customers to understand and use your product.

Conducting competitor analysis

Having knowledge of the existing market players and major competitors will make it easier to decipher a few things – such as:

  • Where your competitors are lacking
  • What the gap in the market is
  • Where the scope is for improvement

Making a list of the major product features

When creating a list of your product’s major features, it is essential that you explain how innovative a feature it is, and how it is designed to solve a problem. 

Creating value proposition charts

Your value proposition is your brand’s unique identifier – without this, your target audience won’t have any reason to pick you over one of your competitors.

Concept testing

Your value proposition, once ready, should be presented to a set of potential customers. How this focus group reacts to the idea is the test and conviction of your efforts so far. If your idea doesn’t look promising to this group, it will be time to repeat the idea screening steps to alter this current product or develop a new product altogether. 

How are you going to market your new product?

Marketing strategy is all about building an effective method in which you are able to reach your product to its target audience. The most straightforward route to doing this is to follow one of the most essential practices in marketing, McCarthy’s 4Ps. What every marketing student learns early on in their educational career, the 4Ps of marketing explore the price, promotion, product, and place – helping you to determine where your new food product development efforts are even worth the financial investment. 

It is also essential that you identify the base price of this new product in order to determine what the selling price should be. So, how can you find this out? Some ways to identify the base price include: 

  • Cost-based pricing models: this is where the initial production costs are added to the markup percentage. This will generate the new product’s final price. For example, if the production cost is £100, and the markup is 50%, the final price will be £150.
  • Market-focused pricing: this pricing model is where the price of a product is set according to current market prices for competing products. This means setting prices in line with your competitors, either undercutting them or pricing slightly higher.

Is your product any good? Developing & testing prototypes

Prototype development is an essential step which helps companies to gain an understanding of what procedures will be required. It also gives them an idea of how to manage the ingredients, processes, and storage of their new food product development on a much wider scale. Your prototype products can also be shared with stakeholders – helping them to visualise the final product, whether it complies with best practices, and whether they wish to continue investing. 

Market testing will also help you to identify any defects in your product in terms of design, flavour, or any other aspects. It can also help you to determine whether the look of your final product is appropriate for what you’re trying to achieve, and how much it is worth in any particular market. The findings from this step can be used to make relevant alterations to the design for further development. 

The launch of your product

After you’ve tested all of the components of your new food product development through numerous phases, the last step is to launch the product. Before the product launch, you should have a detailed plan in place which includes essential information such as dates for when the product will officially launch rather than being stored in supermarket warehouses, as well as who the final target audience and customers are. 

When it comes to launching your new food product, the right positioning compared to your competitors is crucial, and there are some things you can do to help your product gain traction quickly:

  • Market the concept rather than the product: rather than continuously boasting how amazing your product is, discuss with the audience how this new product will make their lives easier or better. 
  • Create a brand voice: a unique mindset and voice are essential in order for any product to succeed in today’s competitive market. Whether it’s through the content on your website, emails, blogs, and more, all of your brand messaging needs to be clear, concise, well-thought-out, and uniform. 

In addition, feedback from customers is invaluable – it will help you to gain a greater understanding of their needs and wants from your product. Launching a product isn’t the final step in new food product development – it launches an ongoing process which allows for further development based on feedback which is key for ensuring your product’s longevity. 

What does your product bring to the table?

Creating a truly innovative product has always been a crucial aspect of any food product development process. However, it has now become essential in the face of unprecedented challenges for the food industry from a range of areas, including: 

  • More robust food safety regulations
  • An increased demand for healthier and more sustainable food
  • A pressing need to discover new ways to feed a constantly growing population

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