What a year it’s been here at Patric Food & Beverage Development food science lab: Gummies and baked goods and beverages, oh my! We’ve gone micro and macro, hot and cold, tart and sweet, and…well you get the picture.
The point is, we’ve helped solve a number of food product problems this year—that your average kitchen-table food consultant could never dream of understanding.
We can’t tell you a whole lot about many of our clients (for privacy and strategic reasons), but here’s a fun rundown of some of the ways our food science R&D lab has stood out from the pack this year.
Trial batches & in-house iterations
When it comes to developing the best food product, we don’t just give you suggestions to try yourself; we formulate everything right here in the lab. Just about anything you could hope to cook, freeze, dry, temper, or any other food-related process—we have equipment to do it right here.
One of our specialties is experimental design, so we can set up the most efficient way to roll out trial batches and test different ingredients or processes, in the shortest time physics and chemistry allow.
Precision tools & processes
The lab at Patric Development is a full-blown food-science playground featuring all manner of high tech and simple gadgets that only true food science nerds would bother having. But they can be incredibly helpful when it comes to formulating better food products.
One of those uniquely helpful tools is our precision oven. With it we were able to help our client solve the heat stability issue in their gummies, by running comprehensive temperature studies of endless recipes, comparing various types of gelling agents at different, precise temperatures to find the exact breaking point of each. We even created mathematical models that explained the results, allowing us to find an optimum formula.
Now they have a high-quality gummy product that will remain perfect whatever the weather in their market area. Even 155° F (68° C) is no sweat.
See more of the food science tools that set our R&D lab apart.
When we’re formulating something like an energy drink for a client, one of the key things that sets us apart is how carefully we control every variable that goes into the product development.
From purifying our water of any potential taste or pH-adjusting agents (like minerals or chlorine), to incredibly precise measurement of ingredients, to highly controlled modifications—our lab delivers consistent results you can replicate at scale.
This control and consistency also means we can do meaningful testing of chemical and sensory characteristics, to make sure we finalize the best possible product.
Read about our unique beverage formulation station.
Data collection & analysis
There’s no guess-and-check here (unless you count the hypothesis phase of development). We collect important data at every step of the process, and analyze carefully to adjust as needed or catch any problems that present themselves.
This is especially important for troubleshooting in food product development—particularly when you don’t know what’s causing an unexpected new problem.
One of our clients was having problems with their renowned cheesecake. After a certain length of storage, their cakes were developing sugar bloom—a harmless but ugly crystallization of sugars on the surface.
With our specialized food science equipment we are able to collect important data like water activity and pH for such clients, giving us insight into just what’s going on at a chemical level—and allowing us to discover and solve the problem.
Read the sugar bloom case study here.
Sourcing hard-to-find natural ingredients
Our client wanted to make a gourmet ice-cream sandwich. Not just improve on the classic—but re-create the American favorite from the ground up, using natural, clean-label, healthy ingredients. That might sound simple enough…but it isn’t.
We went through many iterations to find the intersection of the peaks of quality and flavor—which included some difficult-to-source plant proteins and other special ingredients. But we have built an extensive network of supplier connections, as well as science-trained technical sales staff, and with our experience this gives us access to a wider range of possibilities than your average food consultant. Need a sample of a truly unusual and amazing ingredient to test in your product? We have you covered.
What if you want to make a natural hard candy, using a natural sweetener instead of refined sugar?
The mind reels with possibilities:
- Fruit juice
One option is to just start running through iterations until you find the flavor you’re looking for.
But in our food science lab, we’re able to conduct chemical tests to ascertain the ratio of sugars that works best. Then we can optimize for multiple objectives, like flavor profiles, brix, and glycemic index of different sweeteners to come up with the ideal blend. Again, we’ve got you covered.
Let’s say we wanted to adjust the sugar ratios of those hard candies, without changing the ingredients.
We could run a subset of some of those sugars through natural enzyme-catalyzed reactions—yes, right here in the lab—to change the product’s sugar profile.
Scalability and Commercial Viability
There’s more to producing an excellent food product than just creating a delicious batch time and time again. It’s critical to consider how it will be manufactured, where and how long it will sit in stores, plus shipping, packaging, etc.
We take a holistic view of every project, from concept to consumer. That helps us find and solve problems before they ever arise.
For example, we had a client who was developing a nutraceutical gummy. We didn’t start with just their requirements and flavor profiles—right from the beginning, we also considered:
- Shelf life
- Heat stability
- How flavor, texture, etc is affected by active ingredients
- Sensitivity to oxygen (and therefore packaging options)
And one of the things we account for is that water-based recipes don’t usually scale linearly in confectionery. To make a bigger batch of gummies, you have to decrease the total water content or it will take too long to cook down, and you’ll overdo it, even hydrolyzing some of the gelling agents that you need to give the product its perfect texture (e.g., pectin or gelatin).
Learn more about scaling gummy recipes for market.
Creativity, experience, and knowledge
What if you wanted a Coke—but organic, without all the high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and ghoulish preservatives? Could you even do that?
Simple answer: yes.
But you’d have to know everything we know about how to make a complex product with only simple ingredients like organic essential oils, minerals, and other organic flavor ingredients.
For our client’s clean-label cola, we started with pure water (with all the city’s minerals and chemicals removed) and worked outward from there, using all organic ingredients. Beyond that, we can say no more.
So what’s on our food science frontier for the new year?
New equipment! We’re constantly upgrading our R&D lab at Patric Food & Beverage Development. That’s one of the great things about food science: there’s really no ceiling when it comes to progress, improvement, and new capabilities for helping our clients succeed:
- 20-liter rotary evaporator – flavor work and solvent recovery.
- Minolta colorimeter – highest-precision color measurements of solids, whether we are talking L*a*b or absorbance spectra.
- Refrigerated circulating water bath – hold reaction flasks at very precise temperatures below room temperature. Sous-vide sticks have got nothing on this PolyScience bad boy.
- Accelerated shelf-life studies – a custom heat-treatment case that can precisely hold very large quantities of products at any warm temperature the heart desires, to see how it responds to various conditions.
New talent! In very exciting news, we plan to bring in another highly skilled research scientist by mid-year, so we can help more clients do the impossible. Or should I say—do what they thought was impossible; before they teamed up with our lab.
Stay tuned for more about our cutting-edge food-science lab, and all the ways we can help you advance far beyond the frontiers of ordinary food consultants.
Happy New Year!