R&D Organization


Posted in 15/06/2020 by Cristina Leonhardt

There you were, newly graduated or newly transferred to the R&D area. A Supreme Being looks inside your eyes and says:

– I want you to develop a new cream cheese.

You, unwary reader, whose biggest contact with cream cheese so far had been by eating it once in a while, are faced with the challenge of creating a formulation from scratch.

It’s the moment of truth. There’s no teacher, mom, college roommate to turn to. It’s you alone, with your knowledge and experience. Now, take a deep breath. Don’t freak out. And follow Sra. Inovadeira’s Walk-through:

What is more important than a formulation: that you create, as quickly as possible, your first prototype.

When you create that prototype, you will have your starting point. You’ll be able to feel – with your hands, your mouth, your nose – where you got it wrong. And you’ll be able to quickly correct the course.

My message here is: don’t worry too much about the formulation. At least, not with the first formulation. Draft something, readily weigh the ingredients and produce your product, even if it is in a kitchen counter top.

The food formulation is not the most important part.

Yes, that’s what I said.

The vision of industrial practices so far is changing. Some people keep on thinking think that a formula should be kept under lock and key, and that it is the heart of a company’s operation.

This may still be true for Coca-Cola – but the success of several cheaper soda puts this great advantage in perspective. A formula is something important, but that’s just that: a formula.

It’s not the secret to success.

A formula does not create competitive relationships with suppliers and customers. A formula has no scale gains. Just a formula doesn’t allow you access to a new market.

Even an innovative formula does not guarantee innovation. In a world where some product categories are on the edge of saturation, innovation goes far beyond the formulation: it lies in the service allied to the product, in its integration with the packaging, in the compliance of requirements not expressed by the user, among others.

Some say that the future of the food industry necessarily means completely giving up the “black box” vision for a vision of transparency. Soon, in the interests of food safety and the correct service to a consumer public with countless intolerances, allergies, philosophies and beliefs, the industry will have the mission of play open: To say exactly what, how much and from where comes every ingredient it carries in its formulations.

No, I’m not crazy. You only have to look at the trends behind the modernization of legislations around the world – all of them demanding more and more information on the packaging of foods (including here in Brazil).

Or also, the world trends towards more openness by the food industry (and that was a Fortune magazine headline).

Okay, but without a formulation I don’t have any product at all.

Yes, for a processed food product you need a formulation. So, go on, create it, take it off the paper and taste it.

The key is failing fast (you’ve watched the interview with Igor Oliveira regarding Innovation, haven’t you?).

I’m just telling you one thing: soon, simpler product formulations will be available for anyone who wants to use them. Maybe even for free.

What will change the game will be the focus on the innovation process. That’s where you should bet your chips.

If your Research and Development practices have not changed radically over the past 5 years, it is time to revise your methods. The R&D world is experiencing a conceptual revolution that began with the Silicon Valley industry and now spreads through the other categories.

Food, however, appear to be the most reluctant category in absorbing the new world discipline for product development: design thinking.

 Maybe this isn’t your time to do it: after all, you just need a food formulation now, don’t you?

Then you use the above model and, if you have doubts, call me that I will help you, if it’s in my power.

But I’ll leave you scratching your heads and think. There’s some pretty exciting stuff going on in the world of innovation.

What will be of you when formulations do not matter anymore?

Do you think you’re doing a good job in innovation? Tell Auntie here how you see your company in five years.

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