“I need something new and I need it yesterday!”
A customer called Ellison when they had a problem with one of their ice cream products. They were receiving complaints from consumers about the cookie pieces included in the confection. This dissatisfaction was hurting sales significantly.
Complaints about the old cookies ranged from blandness of flavor to the size of the inclusions. In some cases, the old cookies crumbled to such a small size, consumers couldn’t even tell they were there.
In short, this customer needed a new type of cookie and they needed it fast.
Ellison’s Response: “No problem.”
We went to work right away and developed a crispy new cookie piece, large enough to be easily recognizable, and with a light, clean flavor. Within just a few weeks, our customer reintroduced their product with the new inclusion. It’s been a leading seller ever since.
We use this story to illustrate our R&D process because we want to make sure we communicate our focus on solving problems for our customers. We understand that time to market is as important to your success as the quality of the products we might develop for you.
One key thing that makes Ellison different from an R&D perspective is that as a family-owned business, we have the flexibility to respond to just about any challenge. As a substantial manufacturing concern with a long history in the business, we also have the resources to make a solution work very quickly or to tackle complex longer-term projects.
Ellison’s R&D Process Starts with Listening
Typically the development of a new product begins with a call from our customers’ R&D or marketing departments. They have an idea for a new product that requires a new or modified cookie element as part of the concept.
We start by listening to the idea. Then we ask questions to determine all of the functional requirements for the new product.
Is a crispy piece or a soft piece needed? Should it have a strong or milder flavor profile? Do they need large or small pieces? Are there any ingredient limitations? What manufacturing process will be used?
In the end, Ellison develops a very detailed specification for the product, down to the size, in microns, of the average inclusion or crunch piece. We also develop a very thorough understanding of how the customer’s product will be manufactured, distributed, stored, and consumed.
Then We Get Busy Baking
Next, we conduct a planning session to discuss how we will proceed. We begin by researching ingredients for the project. We order any special ingredients which may be required, in addition to our inventory of standard items.
Once this process is complete and we have assembed all the required ingredients, we begin baking small test mixes.
The Customer Is the Final Judge
Once we have a prototype that closely approximates our specification for the product, we begin to send sample batches of our product to our customer for review. With feedback from our customer, further prototypes and variations are produced. Some may have a slightly sweeter flavor. Others may test a range of sizes. Almost any variable can be tested in order to produce a very exact result.
In fact, the development process does not end until we arrive at precisely the product our customer has is mind.
Whatever It Takes
Sometimes this sampling and testing process takes just a few weeks. In a pinch, we can do a streamlined process in a very short period of time. For more complex projects that must test a significant number of variables, development may take more than a year. We can handle both extremes and everything in between. It all depends on what our customers need.
Once the development process is complete (meaning our customer is completely satisfied with the result), manufacturing can get underway. But that’s an entirely different story.