“Unless you're a global company that has [an] IT department and tools and builds custom solutions, most ... new-product development is a fragmented process because companies haven't adopted a ... solution to unify all of that activity in one platform.”
A unified platform to streamline the product development process
Flavor Studio is a cloud-based product development platform that provides food and beverage and ingredient companies with nutritional analysis, project management, ideation, recipe, and other capabilities. The product is designed to streamline and centralize product development and ensure everyone is working in the same space, as opposed to someone working on on their own spreadsheets or using separate nutrition analysis software, Willis said.
Among its capabilities, Flavor Studio comes with the ability to "conduct simple sensory tests" on products, which historically required "very complex, very expensive" technology that would often require knowledge of sensory science, he explained. With the Flavor Studio platform, food and beverage companies can create sensory tests and have testers respond with a web-based form to rate the taste and flavor characteristics of what's being tested, he added.
A Flavor Studio customer used the sensory testing capabilities to perform shelf stability product tests every three weeks by filling out a survey on the organoleptic characteristics of the product and then reviewing the responses over time, Willis said. Companies can also generate these tests with “the click of a button, and they don't need to have someone hand tabulating this [and] ... comparing it to another report,” he added.
With this sensory data, product developer can see what's working and what's not in what's being tested, which can influence next steps and ultimately lead to a better finished product, Willis explained.
Additionally, Flavor Studio can create FDA-compliant nutritional labels in vertical, horizontal, simplified, and side-by-side options and generate ingredient declaration and allergen statements. When asked about how Senspire keeps up with label regulations, Willis noted that label changes aren’t so frequent that they can’t stay up-to-date on them.
“At the end of the day, we're not inventing labels. We're beholden to in the US, the FDA, and ... in Canada, Health Canada sets those regulations,” Willis said. “People are concerned about [whether we are] staying up to speed on these things. The regulations don't change that often. Before the 2016 changes, the last time they changed was 1995. Since the new labels were announced, ... the US added sesame as an allergen a couple of years ago, but it's more rare that things change.”
In the new year, Senspire will add new platform capabilities, including support for EU and Mexico food labeling. Additionally, the company wants to add "the ability for companies to create their specification sheets," which can include custom fields for the pH of a product and how to properly store it.
Overcoming technology hesitance with simple design
Though Flavor Studio and similar products can streamline product development, developers are accustomed to working in a particular way and might need some convincing on starting to use this technology, Willis admitted. “The biggest hurdle or obstacle that we have as any technology solution provider is overcoming inertia; people ... are just resistant to change,” he added.
Flavor Studio is addressing this by ensuring that its technology is easy to use, which in turn creates fewer problems for product developers to use the platform, he shared.
“We spend so much time making our software easy to use and simple, so that they don't have to be fighting a software application. They're going to be more productive for their companies, making money if they're on the bench developing, and so they shouldn't have to fight a software application.”