Still looking for a healthy sugar?

I’ve given up, and here is why you should too!

Noelle Campbell has called a spade a spade and cleared up the differences between healthy sugar and non healthy sugar.

It doesn’t matter what a celebrity might say, or the minerals and vitamins present. To my knowledge, one sugar cannot be any more or less healthy than another sugar.

There is no healthy sugar.

Only a healthy amount of sugar (hint: it’s as little as possible).

Parmigiano Reggiano defines Drivers of Liking for consumers

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Parmigiano Reggiano are not waiting for consumers to decided what drives liking.

Following my webinar for the AIFST looking at ways to Identify the Drivers of Liking in Food Products, I have kept my eyes peeled for producers who know what consumers expect of their product and aim to deliver it.

I didn't think of this approach, and it is a classic approach, used by people who make cheese, wine, salami and other 'artisan' products.

Parmigiano Reggiano are not waiting for consumers to decided what drives liking. They are not looking at data or consumer complaints. No, instead they are getting ahead of the pack and identifying for the consumers the characteristics of the product they should look for.

In the short film below, Parmigiano Reggiano walks us through the key visual and textural attributes to look for in a cheese. This approach allows Parmigiano Reggiano to tell the story their way.

Everything from how to best prepare the cheese (taking it out of the fridge 30 minutes before consuming) and the proper way to cut the cheese (using an almond shaped chunking tool) is included to ensure the consumer takes the right steps.

They talk about appearance attributes: colour and springiness, and textural attributes: hardness and in-mouth crumble.

What I like most is when they discuss the formation of Tyrosine Crystals.

To an unknowing, uneducated consumer, these crystals would seem to be indicative of a low quality product. Although with some simple guidance, a brief explanation and a reason fro being, consumers can now see, and consumer the cheese containing the crystals, safe in the knowledge that this is a sign of the correct aging process. This product isn't flawed, it is exactly as intended by the craftsmen and craftswomen who create it in Italy.

Drivers of Liking don't always have to be defined by consumers, you can always jump on the front foot and set the tone of the conversation.

Take a look, it's worth the 2 minutes and 47 seconds while you wait for your cup of tea to cool down.

How can a Minimum Viable Product approach work in food innovation

My interpretation of a Minimum Viable Product(MVP). A MVP is a prototype that requires the least possible effort, the smallest financial expenditure and the smallest production run required to produce a stimulus that is adequate to test a specific assumption about a new market or new product.

A minimum viable product gets enough polish so that testers have a realistic experience. But not so much polish that it could be launched tomorrow.

For example, if you are launching a new Berry infused chocolate bar, you might test the assumption 'I have the perfect flavour intensity for the berry note'. To do so, you wouldn't spend much time on perfecting the shape or weight of the finished good, just the flavour intensity.

We all know the tech space is comfortable launching beta versions of new software, getting their MVP out there and testing the consumer appeal for these products. How well does the food industry do?

From my experience, we aren't great at this, but we are getting better. When I first started work at Uncle Tobys (many moons ago) we show our products for consumer feedback, worried that someone might steal our idea. Instead we'd have the R&D team perfect a product before going to full scale consumer testing with 200 consumers, essentially crossing our fingers that somehow we'd got lucky and fluked a product that consumers actually liked.

Now my approach has changed. Most big questions in an NPD process could benefit from some form of consumer input. Using the cycle of:

  1. Here is an idea,

  2. Lets quickly test it in a small group with a bench top sample.

  3. How'd it go, what did they think,

  4. Do we continue to perfect this product or pivot to another new opportunity.

Too few companies allow the R&D team to run the development of new products, but this is a topic for another day. Often R&D teams are eager to change if it is based on data, not on a whim. The look to improve their products and most keen to rise to the challenge of creating products that are successful on shelf. This kind of thinking would fir perfectly with a MVP approach, a great addition to their current processes.

Here is how it could flow:

Goal - Launch a new moulded Chocolate with a soft filling
Assumption 1 - Consumers want a dark chocolate. Prototype. Test. Learn.
Assumption 2 - Consumers want this snack to be healthy. Ask them.
Assumption 3 - Consumer want a fruit flavoured filling. Are you sure, ask them, present samples, is it too sweet?
Assumption 4 - Consumers want this to be a single bite serve. How big is too big? Or to small?
Assumption 5 - Consumers love sea shell shaped moulded chocolates. Why not other animals or plants or geometric shapes?

By breaking the overall goal into smaller assumptions, these can then be quickly tested. Unconventional testing methods are available for testing flavour, fit to concept and liking of specific product components - just ask you Consumer Insight team.

Get your developer on board early. As the testing uncovers new learnings, product developers can roll these learnings into subsequent formulations. These learnings start to form the building blocks of the product, defining the product as you go, solidifying product attributes that become non negotiable - because it is what the consumer wants. How do we know? We've asked them.

From my perspective, this iterative, MVP approach to product development makes a lot more sense that plucking an idea out of thin air, spending hours formulating in the lab, scaling up once the CEO or Sales Manager likes the flavour of it, barging in on production time to run a trial and then heading to Consumer Testing with your fingers crossed....

How to properly pick a perfect parmasen!

The lads at Parmigiano Reggiano have but together a short film (8:25) to explain the sensory characteristics they look for when testing a Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

In this film, they put to one side the years of history behind the iconic cheese and focus on the sensations stimulated when evaluating this product. Igino Morini, Official Taster, pays respect to the individual nuances that can occur between each wheel of cheese - acceptable to an artisan product, but not often sort after in todays manufacturing.

"The sensorial analysis is the discipline that enables us to decode and understand the signals received by our senses at the moment of tasting"

Ignio Morini

Ignio Morini

The film talks through sight (colour and visual texture), aroma, flavour and mouthfeel. It also discusses the changes that can be expected depending on the production month or length of maturation. (A personal favourite part of this film is the number of seductive, dreamy gazes our host Ignio lovingly gives to each chunk of Parmesan.)

If you have a few minutes, have a look at this film, you might just learn one or two things to share next time someone asks about parmesan cheese!

Violet Crumble vs Crunchie - what's your flavour?

Chocolate covered honeycomb has long been an Australian favourite, but which do you prefer, Cadbury’s Crunchie or Nestle’s Violet Crumble? When spare time presented itself at the office, I put the taste buds to work to decide which I prefer.

Packaging

Both products come in vibrant foil packaging, and neither have a transparent window, instead keeping their contents secret from the world. As you'd expect, the vibrant designs on both packs is similar, although communicated using different colours. You may assume the coveted royal purple product belonged to Cadbury’s, but you'd be wrong. Nestle has continued its long association between Violet Crumble and purple while Cadbury’s Crunchie is is slathered in gold.

Appearance

Strip off the wrapper and the differences become more apparent.  Side by side you notice different coloured chocolate. The Crunchie is enrobed in Cadbury’s iconic Dairy Milk while Violet Crumble has opted for a darker variety. The cross section photo (below) reveals the degree of difference in chocolate coverage thickness; Crunchie (62% chocolate) and Violet Crumble (59% chocolate). The density of the honeycomb differs with fewer air bubbles and a more pale golden coloured Violet Crumble.  But we know that no one buys a chocolate bar to just look at..... lets eat!

Texture

Biting into the Crunchie is best described as biting through a chocolate layer, and then chomping through air. There is no structure or resistance given by the honeycomb. It reminds me of biting through a hollow Easter egg. The Violet Crumble still shatters, but the honeycomb provides greater resistance on first bite. Chewing the honeycomb centre of the Violet Crumble conjures up images of eating chalk, but tasty sweet chalk..

Once in your mouth, they both become a mass of chewy chocolatey goo, but the Crunchie’s Rate of Disappearance is far quicker than that of the Violet Crumble.

Unwrapped

Unwrapped

Chocolate

I tip my hat to Crunchie for using the Cadbury dairy milk chocolate. The combination of superior coverage and a familiar chocolate results in a better overall chocolate experience. Violet Crumble is less concerned with the chocolate flavour, allowing their honeycomb flavour profile to shine. As a chocolate bar, the lack of chocolate does play against them in when compared to the Crunchie.

Honey Comb

This is where the two products differ most. The Violet Crumble has a sweet taste and a simple clean honeycomb flavour. The Crunchie is super sweet. The honeycomb flavour wasn’t “clean” reminding me of overcooked toffee - the type that leaves a bitter, burnt sugar flavour in your mouth. Both bars made me thirsty, so I guess this comparison is best undertake with a glass of water close at hand.

Conclusion

Honestly, I couldn’t split these bars by appearance, was swayed towards the Cadbury Crunchie for its superior chocolate coverage but couldn’t consume the whole bar because its excessive sweetness. The strong the caramelised flavours were also a turn off. Even with less chocolate, the clean flavours of Nestle’s Violet Crumble secures my preference.

Final Thoughts...

I have a friend who swears the best way to eat a Crunchie is by pressing your tongue up against the honeycomb and letting it dissolve away. You are left with a soggy, half melted chocolate tube but it is delicious. Try it, but be warned, it usually ends up a little messy.

What is your favourite? How do you eat your honeycomb? Let me know your thoughts!