Here is where I share my thoughts, ideas and opinions about the world of nutrition, food and health. I hope you find good sense, helpful guidance and inspiration to eat great healthy food that makes you feel good.

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18 Mar 2015

New food Product Development - how is it done?

Posted by Nicole Senior on Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I was fortunate to be invited to the Kellogg's HQ in Sydney by their nutrition team to hear about the role of nutrition and dietitians within the business. It was really pleasing to hear fellow dietitians had a place at the decision table and ensuring better nutrition was considered at every stage. And Kellogg's isn't the only company where this is happening. I'm pleased to know dietitians advocating for better nutrition within other breakfast cereal companies (and food companies in general) including Nestle Uncle Tobys, Sanitarium and Goodness Superfoods. We heard the story about the development of their new Five Whole Grain Muesli, including the importance of consumer research to give people what they want, and the technical skill required to bring their wants to life in a food that is good to eat. I think they've done very well with this natural, minimally processed mixture of wholegrains, nuts, seeds and fruit. It is just like muesli you've mixed yourself, only they've done it for you. Find out more about it here

As an educational exercise, we had the opportunity to develop our own muesli according to a consumer insight brief as part of a small group - just like a company like Kellogg's would do. It was very enlightening and lots of fun too. We needed to develop a new muesli product for 'Millenials': young people who like their food their own way and interested in health and wellbeing, but they don't have a lot of time to cook and prepare food. Sound familiar? Even though I'm past this generation, I could relate to it . We had a range of ingredients at our disposal to mix our new muesli product, and they were labelled with relative costs.

We came up with a product called Superfood Breakfast Blend, and in two variants: Crunchy Fruit-free & Purple Berry Antioxidant.

Crunchy fruit-free had oat clusters as well as quinoa, cashews, pepitas and spices. Purple Berry had whole oats, cranberries, blueberries and blackcurrents as well as rye, quinoa, chia, almonds and sunflower seeds..

We believed our product should:

*Be versatile- Millenials want food their own way and our product  could be eaten as is with milk, used as a topping for fruit and yoghurt, or blended into a smoothie

*Contain wholegrains and superfoods in order to give the target group the functional health benefits they wanted in a form they could talk up with their friends.

*Taste great - this required the addition of nuts (including some coconut), dried fruit, spices and in the case of the fruit-free variant oat clusters stuck together with some added sugar.

*Affordable - we had to pull back on the amounts of some ingredients, and be mindful of how many of the more pricey ingredients we used in each variant because of cost (dried blueberries are very expensive, as is quinoa).

What did this exercise demonstrate? There's a lot involved in developing a new product but at its core you have to make something people want; that meets their needs and wants. There are a lot of technical considerations and constraints. For example, cost - you can develop a brilliant muesli if cost is no barrier but very few people would buy it. Another example is physical form - I wanted to add loads chia seeds to the mix but unless you are incorporating them into clusters, they'll settle at the bottom of the pack. A primary driver is taste but having tasted many of the wholegrains and seeds on their own I can say they don't taste that great on their own. Try eating plain rolled oats with milk- not great.The oat clusters were delicious, because they are held together with added sugar!  I'm of the view that a little sweetness can help the healthy wholegrains go down, but there are plenty of fad diets that would ban our breakfast blend. A little bit of coconut went a long way to add some flavour too, despite adding a little saturated fat to the mix (and unfortunately many Millenials think coconut is a superfood anyway). Spices were an amazing way to add interesting flavour.

You can make your own muesli and try this exercise out for yourself. But don't feel bad if you can't be bothered - most people buy their breakfast cereal ready-made and its a nutritious, quick and easy option especially if you choose products based on wholegrains.

Thanks to Dr Michelle Celander, Senior Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs Manager, Kelloggs Australia and New Zealand, and her team for an enjoyable and informative session. She's the one beaming in the photo below, taken during a deliciously healthy lunch.