Is NPD for the food industry just like any other startup?

Often when someone mentions the term ‘startup’ I think of the tech space – a small web development team in a dimly lit room smashing out code as quickly as possible. Some organisation designing and beta testing their latest app with trendsetters.

How different is this to the new product development in the food industry? Are there opportunities to learn from the tech startups that can be reapplied to traditional R&D teams? Until now, I would have been skeptical and thought they are poles apart. We have middle management to impress, large machinery on long runs that can’t be interrupted and technical challenges and stringent regulations that computer geeks wouldn’t even be able to Google. However all that changed when I started listening to the audiobook, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

Eric starts by clearly defining what he sees as a startup:

A startup is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty – Eric Ries

With such a broad definition of what a startup is,  I started to the think ‘Yep, R&D teams for every food manufacturer I know do this’. And with this concession I opened up to the possibility of learning from how a tech start up operates. As I listened to the book, I heard great examples of processes and principles that would apply directly to what we do as developers and food techs.

Our challenges are similar (not enough money, not enough time, too much steering from external forces), but the methodology and process we can use hone a product specifically for a customer are (or could be) remarkably similar

  • – Test/Measure/Learn
  • – Principles of Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  • – Validated Learning
  • – Applying the Toyota principles of LEAN manufacture to NPD setting

Each of these principles would fit nicely and bring tremendous speed and value New Product Development process. Over the next few posts I will explain these in further detail and give examples of how using them will benefit you.

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