Stage 2 Product design and process development

Major innovative issues arose in formulation, including product characterisation and scaling up from batches of a few litres at the laboratory stage, through about 500 litres in the pilot plant to the thousands of litres in the batches in the production plant. Maintenance of the chosen desired flavour balance from the initial concept recipes to plant formulation involved much careful experimentation. The maintenance of final acidity after processing was critical to keeping quality and was difficult, especially with some of the sauces. Problems arose in aspects such as sauce viscosities and behaviour of starches and thickeners, in separation of constituents such as oils in emulsions on standing, and liaison with and checking of suppliers to secure ingredients with low mould counts so that product shelf lives would be adequate. But the solutions were not so obvious and needed a good deal of laboratory and pilot plant work to find them.

Intensive action commenced on preparing the commercial products. Six separate and attractive sauces finally emerged in the initial platform. These had all to be formulated and set up to give a full product specification for production. This work started on 5 August and continued through that and the following month, reaching agreed products and plant procedures on 12 September.

Packaging and package design presented special problems. In the available time, it was not possible to design and make new bottles, so after exploring all possibilities, long fat-necked bottles, from a line of soft drink bottles that were available to the manufacturer, had to be used. Bottle capping with a hot fill containing recognisably large ingredient pieces had to be explored and accommodated, labels needed designing, and a deep anti-tamper sleeve organised. This deep sleeve turned out to have an additional advantage: the capability of the filler was somewhat limited but the deep label concealed any variation it produced. The different sauce varieties had slightly different specific gravities and all bottles were filled to the same nominal volume. This meant that the customers for the heavier varieties received a systematic advantage, or, put another way, the company was consistently giving away product with the heavier sauces, providing a strong inducement for the further development in due course of a more precise filler. Also, following on a product demonstration to the trade, it was decided to move the bottle tray configuration from 4 x 3 to 5 x 2, so as to improve display, and this required a last minute reorganisation and redesign of the corrugated board trays and cartons and their assembling lines. So packaging was a busy scene.

There were effectively three teams in the group working on the project; the product manager's team (in Auckland), and the product technology and packaging technology teams in Hastings. Their work had all to be coordinated and combined, drawing on the full knowledge of all members of the staff with appropriate expertise. Cooperation over a wide range of people and skills was excellent and contributed very substantially both to the successful outcome and to the speed with which it was reached.

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