At FoodChain ID the term ‘Shift Left’ has been coined to reflect the impact the business’s technology-enabled solutions can have on the food supply chain – an approach that can lead to significant competitive advantages.
“The fundamental idea behind the 'Shift Left' approach in [new product development] NPD is to integrate important insights around things like compliance, company standards and historical insights into early decision making,” said Frierson.
“For instance, traditionally compliance efforts have been heavily loaded later in the process, often leading to long cycles with a lot of churn, unnecessary risk, and products that often require rework shortly after launch. By 'shifting left,' we proactively identify and mitigate potential issues, enabling a faster, more efficient, and less risky path to market.”
Helping businesses to evolve efficiently
FoodChain ID places an emphasis on digital insights to help businesses deal with the constant evolution that is required to remain competitive, particularly regulatory changes and new technological advances.
“Digital insights provide contextually relevant data on evolving regulatory landscapes. This allows businesses to adapt quickly, making data-driven decisions that are future-proof. For instance, predictive analytics can forecast regulatory changes, helping companies to adjust formulations or processes in anticipation, rather than in reaction,” said Frierson.
“Traditionally, people developing and maintaining products are spending a lot of time trying to ‘connect the dots’ on their own to make sure they are reviewing risk, validating their using the right approaches, and maintaining customer and regulatory standards. A digital approach takes your product goals (claim desired, target markets, etc) and automatically applies your own standards and historical experience along with external risk, compliance, and competitive data to inform your decisions, warn you of risk, and validate in real time that you are addressing key requirements as you develop and make changes.”
Driving ingredient and formulation innovation
When it comes to ingredient and formulation innovations, the company believes that its digital insights can make a significant impact, with Frierson pointing to emerging tech-driven areas like plant-based proteins or sweetener alternatives, specifically because these are fast evolving areas where in house experience may be lacking.
“Using the example of low-sugar or sugar-free alternatives in beverages and snacks. Integrated insights allow you to quickly scan global databases for alternative natural sweeteners that are not only compliant with international regulations but also resonate with consumer preferences for natural ingredients,” said Frierson.
“Importantly, as you identify some candidates, digital technology can help you quickly simulate potential changes across your entire portfolio then allow you to do deep assessment to understand the potential impact. The simple fact is that a digital approach doesn't just make you more efficient, it makes things like bulk ‘what if’ scenario-building actually feasible. Many companies know they are missing opportunities today simply because they don't have the bandwidth to efficiently explore potential changes to current products.”
The time is now for digital insights
So, exactly when is it the right time to start calling on these digital insights and how should they be implemented? Frierson believes that digital insights are best integrated into the entire ingredient and formulation process from the very start in order to pay the highest dividends.
“In the conceptual stage, they can help identify viable ingredients that align with consumer trends and regulatory requirements. During the development phase, real-time assessment of the detailed prototype provides immediate feedback against target product requirements, known risk conditions, and corporate standards/checklist. Even post-launch, these approaches can proactively identify potential and market risk and provide insights about potential risk or upcoming regulatory changes, giving you additional runway to react,” he said.
The bottom line is just how FoodChain ID’s digital insights can help to drive improvements. Speed, efficiency and risk mitigation are at the top of the list, with the value trickling down to the streamlined R&D processes that can speed time-to-market.
“They also enable more efficient use of resources by focusing efforts where they are most likely to succeed. Perhaps most importantly, they help in proactively identifying and mitigating risks, whether they are regulatory, consumer-based, or supply chain-related,” said Frierson.
“I think one of the biggest concepts that people don't immediately realize is that the benefits go far beyond just faster time to market and resource efficiency. This kind of integrated intelligence doesn't just make work "go faster", it fundamentally changes the way teams are able to work. Many traditional processes are not best practices, rather a limitation of past tools and processes. By creating a greater amount of visibility, automatically detecting issues, and injecting additional context during critical decision-making, these capabilities create opportunities to completely rewire the innovation process.”