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Book Review: New Food Product Development
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New Food Product Development by Gordon W. Fuller

New Food Product Development: From Concept to Marketplace, 2nd Edition

Written by: Gordon W. Fuller. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2005. 388+xviii pages. 
Reviewed by: Carla L. Kuesten

New Food Product Development

Gordon Fuller guides the reader through the technical and marketplace complexity of new food product development. Obviously seasoned as a food industry consultant, he offers the reader a clear and thorough understanding of how the industry as a whole competes, succeeds, and in some instances fails to bring new products to the marketplace. The book serves as a valuable reference book—rich in details, historical perspective, forward-looking advice, and references.

Scientists, especially those new to the food product development process, will gain a broad perspective and understanding of the industry. Though the book's framework is focused specifically on the development of food products, its comprehensive content, along with Fuller's broad experience, helps the reader gain valuable perspectives beyond the classroom that would otherwise take years to acquire in practice.

Mature practitioners, including market researchers and marketers, will appreciate and gain valuable insights from Fuller's perspective into the inner workings of the industry. This book delivers helpful information in a concise, organized style—bringing together diverse elements of the food industry that are all important for a new product introduction into the marketplace. Fuller closes his first chapter by defining new product development: “The purpose of the development process is to move a desirable product to market with the least amount of uncertainty respecting its probability of success in the segment of the marketplace where it is to compete” (p. 31).

Some sections are dry, bibliographic, literature reviews. In other cases, fields such as sensory research are blatantly lacking in state-of-the-art practices. The reader will have to look elsewhere for specific subject-matter depth, recognizing that this book is an overview. For example, one could turn to publications, conferences, and online resources of the Institute for Food Technology.

The book begins by defining new products—with distinctions among line extensions, repositioned or reformulated products, innovative products, creative products, and products with added value. Fuller distinguishes innovative products as changes to existing products in contrast to creative products that have not been seen before and brought into existence; added value describes the degree of innovation or change that makes a product more desirable to either customers or consumers. Fuller clarifies the difference between customers and consumers early in the book: A consumer is the end user, and customers are those in the distribution chain, such as grocery stores, restaurants, and food wholesalers.

A three-dimensional block diagram serves to illustrate the conceptual market with the dimensions of consumer elusivity, technical product complexity, and marketplace complexity—aptly illustrated on the book cover to capture the essence of what is inside. The author includes product life cycles and profit and advises companies to research the market constantly for new product ideas and to maintain portfolios of new product ideas. A control chart illustrates the rise and decline of new food product introductions from before 1965 to 2000, showing percent change compared to the previous two-year period (p. 17). The book offers reasons for the decline in new product introductions since 1982. Fuller encourages the reader to consider five “whys” for undertaking new food development: (1) product life-cycle changes; (2) growth for business goals; (3) creation of new markets; (4) advancement of new knowledge and technologies; and (5) legislation and policy changes.

The influence of various players involved in new product development (e.g., strategists, tacticians, attorneys, quality professionals) offers the reader an insightful perspective from many angles. Senior management, the head of finance, and the head of marketing develop strategy contribute to policy and have final decision-making responsibility. The tacticians—research and development, engineering, and manufacturing—carry out the strategy. Legal and quality control protect the safety of the company and the consumer.

The “Going to Market” chapter covers the varieties of market tests typically applied during development activities: focus-group interviews, concept tests, blind-product tests, and market tests. Fuller offers goals, cost implications, considerations, advantages and disadvantages, and cautions, and he discusses when, where, and how to introduce the product into the marketplace. The directions are routine, standard thought processes most seasoned marketers would consider for product introductions. A summary of new food product introductions highlights elements in success or failure as cited in the literature and thus helps to steer future efforts; these are cited in table format (p. 234). Most reasons for success or failure have not changed over the years and include strategic direction, product promise not delivered, and positioning or no competitive point of difference. Fuller rephrases Silver's (2003) nontrivial seven deadly sins of product development to guide developers. Additional insights on top reasons for failures adds to understanding guidelines to apply moving forward—top mentions for failure include both internal and external reasons.

The “Going Outside” chapter considers outsourcing, joint ventures, partnerships, and hiring of consultants. Fuller cuts to the core by citing advantages and disadvantages for various approaches of working relationships with outside resources. The pitfalls and rewards of working with consultants (to assist, not to supplant) are summarized with caveats. These include extra cost to monitor the outsourced activity, exposure to sensitive business plans, loss of feel for the project, product and ingredient experience, and loss of technical expertise. Fuller highlights his offbeat style in the section on communication where he spins several “speak” terms on the page to describe types of communication (or lack thereof), even quoting Lewis Carroll's “Jabberwocky” (Carroll, 1988) to emphasize the importance of language and communication.

A chapter focuses on food service—for example, restaurants, catering services, institutional and military feeding, and vending machines—with various sectors and service outlets characterized for the reader. Key characteristics of importance to the food service industry are clientele, food preparation, storage facilities, labor, nutrition, price, quality, consistency, and safety. Product development for the food-service market is similar to retail, but for success Fuller encourages developers to speak to food-service operators and to work closely with customers. Two distinct food-service customers exist: (1) the individual who orders from the menu; and (2) master chef, owner dietician, food purchasing agent, store owner, or businessperson who purchases a franchise for a fast food outlet. Also, Fuller observes that the skills combined in a chef–technologist are being sought out by the food service sector for a competitive edge and for insight into quality, pricing structure, and expected consumer reaction. As with new food products for the retail market, researchers conduct consumer testing for food service using questionnaires and cash-register data to evaluate new offerings. Consumer waste—food purchased by the consumer but discarded—is one sure indication of acceptance, or failure.

The chapter on product development for the food ingredient industry is of particular value for today's marketplace, as the ingredient supplier is now being called on not to just deliver ingredients but to add value in the deal as well. Fuller addresses the new ingredient challenge, covering fats, sugars, fiber ingredients, and proteins. He also tackles the opportunities provided by the so-called new nutrition with functional foods—which have ingredients that provide a health benefit or nutraceuticals—pre- and probiotics, and phytochemicals as well as the challenges of safety and ethics. Fuller mentions other ingredients: antioxidants, antimicrobial agents, and bacteriocins.

Of special value is the chapter titled “What I Have Learned So Far,” where Fuller offers his cumulative wisdom of years to us for serious consideration. To summarize, we are encouraged to:

  1. Value earlier literature without prejudice,
  2. Know what customers, consumers, and retailers want and need,
  3. And be mindful of the influencers and drivers of the food microcosm.

The book closes with a discussion and review of the impact of food science and technology on the consumer. Then we are led through a digression of food habits and practices then and now, and last of all we learn of the confounding influences and factors shaping future new product development, which seems to be written with a hint of satire and cynicism. This particular section of the book was a refreshing read that reminds and enlightens the reader on the lability—ready capacity for change—versus the rigidity or inertia—tendency to resist change—of the food industry.

Fuller reminds us in closing that “new product development is still an art” (p. 352), that we must learn while dispassionately applying our soft and hard science skills, that we must be on the watch out for trends and fads, and that long-term patience and educating consumers on the value of products wins over short-term greed for profits.

This is a should-have reference book for anyone involved in developing new food products working in or with the food industry. The book finishes with a sense of completeness—a well-grounded, broad perspective in the fundamentals of the new food development process in industry today. The book is well cited and supported with technical knowledge and is sprinkled with fun with the food-speak used throughout the industry.

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