Developing Dishes, Proposing Products — The Aquascot Innovation Centre
The Aquascot Innovation Centre is where the 'magic' happens, in a culinary sense — producing delicious Scottish seafood recipes, carefully researched and developed to enhance our clients' range and offer something new to their customers.
We caught up with our dedicated IC team — Neil (Chef), Fee, Mark and Justine — to hear about each stage of a typical product development process, from their point of view.
Here's a flavour of the six stage process:
Doing Our 'Homework', Learning, Comparing
I regularly keep up with food trends whether they are Britain-based or more global. Part of my role is to surf the web to find the best blogs and search restaurant menus – and attend conferences when I can! I also visit stores to find out the latest product launches, especially in the fish category.
We usually end up with a list of key ingredients to experiment with our very own salmon and trout in the kitchen.
— Justine Fourny, Category & Marketing Officer
Proposing, Tasting, Focusing
Once we have shortlisted our ideas, we start with the first draft recipe experimentation. This will involve trying out some of our existing ingredients and some new on trend ingredients in the creation of the new products. At this stage we see which ingredients work best in each recipe, these are all done with the help of the team and internal tastings.
From these internal panels we then shortlist the recipes which best fit our brief, these will then be further improved down the line until they are ready to be presented to the customer.
— Neil "Chef" Morrison, Development Chef
Analysing, Choosing, Discussing
I tend to base our flavour profiling and ingredient selection around what is on trend. It may be a recipe seen in a book or magazine or a dish eaten in a restaurant that I take inspiration from, this will then be taken to the team for discussion and then into the kitchen and worked on until we have a dish that hits the brief.
We also work closely with our clients who may want us to work on a certain cuisine or key trending ingredient within their brief.
— Neil "Chef" Morrison, Development Chef
Buying the Best, Sampling, Pricing Up
During the kitchen development stage, we will determine if any new ingredients need to be sourced for our conceptual recipes. This involves working with our approved supplier partners to obtain the best possible raw materials within the cost constraints. Samples are obtained and on occasions we may need to refine our recipe accordingly.
The shortlisted kitchen concepts are costed before being shown to the customer and this is continually reviewed as we work through the later stages of the product development process. — Fiona "Fee" Stott, NPD Manager
Presenting, Listening, Reworking
Presentation of product ideas to our customer and obtaining their feedback can be two-fold. Sometimes, customers will love the concept presented and no recipe changes are requested. However, if they want to see changes, this can mean that several reworks of the product need to be shown before we reach approval.
Often customers will want to present the final range of recipe ideas to a wider panel within their business and obtain a business-wide approval.
Once formal approval or ‘sign off’ is given, then we will progress to the more complex factory & process stages of the product development cycle.
— Fiona "Fee" Stott, NPD Manager
Checking, Assessing, Launching
Prior to launch, our products are checked by the customer to make sure that the product tastes and looks the same as it did when the product was first presented to them. This makes sure that we produce a consistent product once production is scaled up from kitchen samples to factory produced products.
Once launched, products are checked throughout the production process against agreed production standards and there is a daily taste panel to assess products to make sure not only do they look as they should but that they taste as they should too.
— Mark Sweeney, Product Manager
Find Out More...
For more information on the Innovation Centre, the people who work there and our wider range of products on shelves — including the 'Added-Value' dishes prepared for Waitrose & Partners — visit the Product Innovation page.
If you're interested in speaking with us about developing a new product or range, fill out our quick and easy Contact form.