The ongoing evolution of consumer preferences, taste and buying behaviors has forced food industries to innovate new products and flavors as per consumer’s demand. Also, to offer food products at competitive prices, industries have to cut down their cost by optimizing their manufacturing process. Hence the Indian government along with food industries are investing in Research and Development (R&D).The Main objective of R & D consultants in the food processing industry is to develop new products and flavors. In the food industry, primary aim of strategic R&D is to: decrease product costs, improve nutritional properties, taste enhancement, technology upgradation process optimization, improve food safety, shelf life improvement, etc. Research and development R&D Consultants are not only limited to product development but also technology upgradation and process optimization. To improve productivity and to avoid human intervention, food industries are shifting towards automation. Batch weighing, packaging, logistic functions, mixing, material handling has already become completely automated in some food industries. With the implementation of artificial intelligence and machine learning, industries are gearing up for the fourth industrial revolution which needs R&D to be done extensively.
Importance of R&D Consultants in Food Processing Industries
1). Product Development
Food industries have to develop innovative food products to survive in today’s turbulent market. There is a high possibility that new products might fail to grab consumer’s attention. Hence food industries are investing in Research and New Food Product development as per consumer’s preferences and buying behaviors.
Product development consists of 4 steps:
- Product strategy development as per target market.
- Product design to develop innovative products.
- Commercialization of products by designing marketing.
- Launching the product.
Functions of R&D in product development:
- Developing new formulations by understanding consumer’s priorities.
- Improving the nutritional properties of food.
- Enhancing taste and texture.
- Developing new prototypes.
- Reducing manufacturing cost without lowering product quality
- Developing healthier products according to consumer’s health priorities.
- Minimizing food contamination.
2). Food Safety
To control pathogenic microorganisms in food, R&D has played a vital role in developing several innovative methods such as microwave and radio frequency heating, High Pressure Processing, ultraviolet treatment, ionizing radiation, ultrasound, ohmic heating, etc. R&D is an effective way to control food-borne diseases. During the initial stages of a product’s lifecycle, food safety consultants should ensure that the food is safe for consumption. If the developed product becomes unsafe for consumption, it will damage the company’s brand reputation, business relationships, market value and most importantly sales. Many companies have not yet recovered from impacts like these. Hence it is very important for industries to conduct R&D to test and ensure product quality.
3). Shelf-life Improvement
Shelf life is defined as length of time the product remains safe to consume and also retain its properties such as chemical, functional, sensory and microbiological properties. Distributors like supermarkets, wholesalers and retailers cannot afford to see food products spoiling on their shelves. This demands the necessity of R&D in creating food products with longer shelf life. While transporting, the environment plays a key role in shelf life. Unfavorable temperature results in food spoilage and oxidation. Water activity also plays a key role as organisms grow at a rapid pace due to presence of moisture. Biscuits and snacks loose get affected by increase in moisture content. On the other hand, cakes and baked goods get affected by dryness. Food products might undergo oxidation and non-enzymatic browning due to biochemical reactions. This affects the shelf life of oil containing foods such as chips, savories, biscuits, etc. even frozen foods such as fish and other meat product’s shelf life gets limited due to fat oxidation. Meat products are extremely prone to spoilage due to high water content and their chemical composition. To prevent spoilage, there is a need to reduce microbial metabolism and oxidative reactions. Hence There has to be a lot of R&D work to be done by food industries to increase shelf life.
4). Cost Cutting
To offer food products at competitive prices, food industries seek the help of R&D professionals. Research and development team is also employed to adopt cost cutting procedures. To reduce staffing costs and to improve productivity, industries are introducing robotic arms onto their production line. To standardize the manufacturing process to reduce costs, there is a requirement of R&D. Food industries were mainly driven by the labor force before the outbreak of pandemic. But due to COVID 19, industries are inclining towards automation. Global food automation is projected to reach US$ 32 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 10.2% from 2021 to 2028. Automation not only improves productivity, but also will ease supply chain management and inventory management.
5). Adopting Environmental Friendly Production Methods
Along with increasing profitability of industries, R&D has contributed well in developing environmentally friendly production methods such as green manufacturing, green supply chain, harnessing industrial waste, reverse supply chain, etc. Also, industries can exhibit its commitment to going green by using renewable energy sources to power its facilities. Depletion of natural resources and also the capability to save money by reducing the reliance on electricity has forced industries to adopt eco-friendly manufacturing processes.
6). Waste Reduction
Currently one of the hot topics is waste reduction, especially plastic. There is a lot of R&D work going on across the globe to minimize packaging. It is not only environmentally friendly but also helps in cost cutting. Hence manufacturers can develop and supply their products whilst keeping their costs competitive.
Apart from material costs, there are several other factors that increase cost of packaging such as.
- Using more packaging materials such as cardboard, biodegradable plastic bags, papers.
- Expensive shipping costs.
- High-cost packing operations model.
- Usage of stuffing materials such as bubble wrap, silica gel grains, Styrofoam, foam foil, etc.
- Time consuming packaging.
- Ineffective packaging materials that cannot resist damage.
7). Policies, Laws and Standard Regulations
To ensure food safety and quality, The Indian government has set out laws and regulations to govern the food. These regulations and laws impact product formulation and development, From R&D to marketing. Food industries have to develop their products as per guidelines set by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) which is established and governed by Food Safety and Standards Act,2006. There is a lot of Research and development required to meet the standards of FSSAI in developing the product, packaging, labeling, etc. All the food industries of any level have to get registered in FSSAI.
Packaging performs basic duties of containment, information dissemination, protection, etc. But changing trends in the market are putting industries under constant pressure to come up with novel packaging techniques having components such as flavor releasers, antimicrobials, Co2 absorbers and antioxidants. Consumers are demanding fresh foods with less preservatives that are safe and healthy to consume. Marketing of such products requires packaging which performs additional functions. Brands are coming up with new packaging solutions to improve packaging performance along with ripeness indicators, biosensors, aroma emitters, prevention of moisture infusion, etc. These help in delaying chemical spoilage, enzymatic process, preserve nutritional qualities of product and enhance its shelf life. Currently, sustainable packaging has emerged as a new sensation in the food industry. Eco-friendly food packages use plant-based extracts such as rice husk, bamboo, wood and wheat. All these are biodegradable, chemical free and reusable.
Role of R&D in Packaging
- Packaging material selection.
- Developing innovative packaging solutions such as sustainable packaging.
- Creating low-cost packaging materials.
- Lowering packaging waste.
- Field trial planning
9). Other Important Functions of Research and Development
- Conducting nutritional analysis
- Testing product quality
- Analyzing product pH, moisture content and TTA
- Testing softness by conducting penetrometer testing
- Plant trials of innovative products
Government Support to Encourage R&D in Food Industry
1). Research and Development in Processed Food Sector Scheme
The Ministry of Food Processing Industries is extending financial assistance for food industries to undertake R&D work through the scheme “Research & Development In Processed Food Sector”. Food industries can avail the benefits of R&D for product development, technology upgradation, packaging, value addition, etc.
In North East states grant-in-aid is given upto 70% of cost of equipment and 50% in general areas.
Government funded organizations, CSIR recognized R&D units, Central/State Government institutions, All universities, IITs, etc
2). Industry Relevant R&D (IRRD)
Aim of the IRRD scheme is to solve MSME industry specific problems by utilizing the expertise available in national laboratories and academic institutions. Proposals which bring scientific and technological innovations in MSME industries are encouraged.
- All MSME industries
- Industrial R&D centers
- Funding will be shared between MSME and SERB. MSME share should not be less than 50% of the total budget
- Funding will be provided for a maximum duration of 3 years.
Need of R&D Consultants in food industry
Innovation in both products and manufacturing process plays a vital role for food industries in:
- Increasing productivity
- Staying ahead of competitors
- Bettering competitiveness in domestic and also export markets.
- Widening market range
- Capturing attention of consumers
- Developing strategies to reduce cost of production without compromising product quality.