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Foods are developed in a number of stages. They need to be tested and evaluated throughout these stages to ensure they are meeting requirements.
The first stage of food development is the brief, which is the problem that needs to be solved. For example, developing a lasagne for health conscious consumers.
Market research
Market research means finding out information about what people want from a product. It includes studying market trends and shopping habits. This can be done by conducting surveys, questionnaires, and telephone interviews. For example, would people buy a low fat lasagne?
Design specification
The design specification is the first attempt at listing the needs of the product. It includes:
• size
• shape
• shelf life
• weight
• sensory characteristics (taste, texture, appearance, etc)
• costs
• ingredients (with quantities)
• equipment
Shortlisting and testing
Initial ideas are generated following the design specification. These are then shortlisted based on concept screening, where five or six ideas are chosen, based on which ideas best meet the design specification.
Sensory testing
It is essential to test sensory qualities. The results are analysed so that the product can be improved or changed. This is called sensory analysis.

Ranking tests
Similar products are tested for a specific characteristic, for example saltiness. Samples are given randomly coded names, and testers sort the products from most to least salty.
Rating tests
Products are tested for a specific characteristic to find out if there is a noticeable difference between two products. For example, manufacturers can test a new low fat version of a product to see if it is similar to the original. The products are randomly coded and testers rate them using a scale:
1. dislike a lot
2. dislike a little
3. neither like or dislike
4. like a little
5. like a lot
In one type of test the testers are given two identical products and one different product. They are asked to pick the different product.
Profile test
The profile of a product can be recorded as a star diagram. Testers rate characteristics on a five point scale (1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest). The results are plotted on the star.

Any changes to the design specification need to be made before the final manufacturing specification is prepared. For example, sensory testing may reveal that the food is too spicy, so the ingredients may need to be modified.
Manufacturing specification
The manufacturing specification lists information a manufacturer needs to produce the product. The specification records the stages of the production process, with details of all the characteristics (shape, size, texture, colour, flavour etc) required in the final product.
It also lists where standard components can be used. A standard component is a pre-prepared ingredient used in the production of a food product, like pizza bases or ready-made sauces.
Quality control
Quality assurance (QA) guarantees that food meets a clear, consistent set of standards. At key stages in production there should be quality control checks so manufacturers are alerted to any problems. The results of these checks are recorded. Checks can be done by hand or by computer.
Quality control checks will normally include:
• weight checks to make sure the product is the required weight
• visual checks to make sure it looks the way it should
• temperature checks to make sure it is being kept at an appropriate temperature
• pH checks to make sure the food has the correct acidity/alkalinity
• microbiological checks to make sure bacteria are not at harmful levels
• chemical checks to guard against chemical contamination
• metal checks to guard against contamination by metals (usually at the packing stage, using a metal detector)
• organoleptic checks to check flavour, texture and aroma by sampling the food product
This flowchart shows where quality checks might take place during the production of pizza:

A crosscutting food scientist with wide interest in food product development and Quality assurance

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. Dismiss