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Reasons Not to Use Supermarket Ingredients To Make Edible Products

I often get start up companies coming to me with their handmade prototypes that they would like to scale into something that can be commercialized. Their early prototypes are usually made with ingredients that they bought at their local supermarket. They may have hand chopped fresh fruit or used a “seasoning blend” that they bought in bulk at whole foods or used a supermarket brand of Pectin.

I am here to advise you not to do this. Perhaps it’s ok when you are at your VERY early ideation stage and want to create some gold standard concepts however as you begin to make prototypes to show investors or potential manufacturers, using ingredients from the supermarket is never a good idea. Here are the reasons why:

Inconsistencies in Functional Ingredients: In the food industry, ingredients like xanthan, pectin and carrageenan come in many different forms. There are Alpha and Lambda versions, there are high and low methoxy and lots of other specific varieties, each of which has a specific function and works well in certain food environments. The store bought version is typically generic and designed to more or less work in a variety of applications. A better approach is to contact a legitimate hydrocolloid manufacturer and ask for a sample of gum that fits your application. Companies like TIC Gums and Ingredion have websites and experts on hand to assist you.

Ingredients with Unknown “Formulas”: If you use a salsa or a jalapeno jam or a spice blend in your recipe, you are making it difficult for yourself to recreate your recipe later on. The fresh jalapeno salsa you bought at the deli is only available at THAT deli. A better approach is to create your own “sub” recipe of salsa and document the amount of everything that’s in it.

High End Ingredients: There are lots of ingredients that have less expensive siblings that you can use. Try to find a more common similar substitute whenever possible. For example, heirloom tomatoes are beautiful but if you wanted to buy a truckload to make an heirloom tomato salsa with- it would be very expensive and make your finished product unaffordable. Sometimes you have to just bite the bullet and use a more generic mainstream version instead.

Exotic Ingredients: Greek honey made from thyme flowers is great but you may have to settle for the regular clover kind. Greek honey is expensive and not affordable at the industrial level. When you start your recipe creation, don’t start with the exotic stuff, use the more common versions at all times.

Your early stage R&D work is going to be time consuming. You will be making multiple batches in the kitchen and getting your feedback from family and friends. You want to make something that is as close as what you CAN make (in a manufacturing plant) as possible.

Find a food science consultant to help you source out industrial ingredients that are affordable and available in bulk. It will save you time and money in the long run.

Rachel Zemser April 2017

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