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Before You Hire A Food Scientist

July 24, 2018

Food scientists are not a one-stop shop but can certainly be a means to many solutions in your food/beverage company. Before you hire one, here are 5 things to do first.

We’ve all been there. Overwhelmed, overworked, under-appreciated, underpaid, incredibly behind. 

For those who own their own thing (or aim to), chances are you realize – at some point – you have to be everyone – sales, marketing, legal, accounting, and somehow, your actual job.

When you try to be everyone, it is a countdown to burnout. We all know this, so why do we put ourselves through it?

It’s really hard to know when to outsource, especially because outsourcing costs money – and in every case of any successful business – spending has a limit. Especially a start-up.

This article will walk you through 5 things you can do and should have ready before you hire a food scientist (unless you like to spend money).


1. Know what you want.

In 1-2 sentences, know how to explain your product. At least what it is and the purpose.

With all the trends out there, I know your product is so much more than this. To best explain the trends and/or claims your product holds standard, list them.

Here’s an example:

Product: This is a ready-to-drink beverage containing 20g of plant protein per serving. It’s available in three flavors: vanilla, chocolate, & strawberry and sold in individual, 12 oz. units. It does not require refrigeration.

Standard: Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Organic, Gluten-free, Vegan

2. Recipe development.

Not everyone has a recipe developed, and that could be why you want to work with a food scientist. Totally makes sense.

However, if you already have a finished recipe and perhaps need a food scientist for other reasons (sourcing suppliers, finding a co-manufacturer, preparing for commercial-scale processing, etc.), here’s something you can do.

Convert all your volumetric units (cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, gallons, etc.) to weight units (grams, kilograms, pounds). This is an essential step if you’re serious about scaling your product. It’s also important so that you can double-check your work, ensuring it is indeed the amount needed for a successful recipe.

If you want to take it one step further, convert weight units into percentage form. If that’s too confusing, no worries. It will take a food scientist a few minutes to input into an Excel spreadsheet.

3. Suppliers & Costs.

Not everyone has suppliers and costs figured out, and that could be why you want to work with a food scientist. Again, totally makes sense.

However, if you do, define some parameters:

1. What is the ideal cost per serving or per container?
2. Are you committed to working with only a certain supplier (or manufacturer)?

If there are suppliers you are already working with, it is important to connect your contact with your food scientist. There are inevitable technical questions and document requests, and accessible communication is key to quick project turn-arounds.

4. Shelf-life.

Shelf-life is industry terminology for expiration date. How long and under what conditions is your product safe and guaranteed?

Know what your current product shelf-life is, where you’d like it to be, as well as what processing measures you’re comfortable with. For instance, you can significantly increase product shelf-life with ultra-high temperature processing (aka ultra-pasteurization)… but is that what you want?

Generally, the longer the shelf-life, the better. The reason is in part due to distribution.

Think about this for example:

Your product is produced and sealed. From point of seal (and proper storage), it is good for a period of 60 days (2 months). That may seem ideal considering nothing in one’s fridge normally lasts as long as 60 days. However, your product will be produced in large quantities (likely based on the minimum order of a co-manufacturer, though ultimately based on keeping prices down per unit produced).

Once your product is produced, it’s stored for some period of time until a truck (or other means of transport) picks up and delivers your product to its next location – sometimes, a distribution center. Let’s say this takes 1 week.

Your product will set in a distribution center for another period of time, until a t