From Recipe Development to Large-Scale Production

Discover an interesting journey of 'Meal in a Bottle': from recipe development to finding the perfect production partner and scaling up.

In the fast-paced world we live in, convenience and nutrition often seem at odds with each other. However, a revolutionary product known as ‘Meal in a Bottle’ aims to bridge this gap by offering a convenient, yet nutritious solution. Behind the scenes, an extensive research and development phase took place, employing a combined approach of a laboratory-scale recipe development, sensory analysis, and research with expert panels and consumers. After months of hard work, the product has reached a stage where it is ready for large-scale production to meet the demanding volumes of the market. Here we take a closer look at the journey from recipe development to finding the ideal production partner and optimizing the production process.

Finding the One

Among the significant milestones on the path to product realization lies the critical task of finding a production partner that embodies excellence in every aspect, which is not as easy as one would think. In the search that lasted for more than a year, we contacted more than 15 different production partners from Slovenia and abroad, conducted production trials with three of them, tested four different machine setup, and even formed a partnership with one. Sadly, we faced at least one big deal breaker at each partner, from inadequate production set up, to an insufficient level of know-how at one partner, and poor hygiene practices at others, which almost brought us to a dead end.  In order to cut the logistical pathways to minimize the costs and environmental impact, we focused on local partners.

After a rigorous search, a suitable partner was finally discovered in Ljubljana, ticking all the boxes: suitable equipment, production capabilities, the desired level of know-how, regional location, precision and accuracy, a knowledgeable and reliable team, and shared vision and values for the future of the plant-based food industry and transparency. This partnership laid the foundation for the next phase of the journey.

Scaling Up: Challenges and Solutions

While finding the right production partner is an achievement, the real work begins in the production phase. The transition from a kitchen-scale recipe to producing hundreds and hundreds of liters in a single operation poses significant challenges. With little room for error to minimize food waste, a meticulous scale-up testing plan was defined. This plan relied on a predefined decision tree, risk assessment, and the establishment of quality control points. Additionally, a flexible mindset was required to adapt and seek solution-based ideas throughout the process.

The Four Phases of Scaling Up

To ensure a systematic approach, the scaling-up process was divided into four distinct phases. In the initial phase, thorough testing of the machines and equipment was conducted to confirm their suitability, working volumes, and adherence to the required conditions and parameters. This phase set the stage for subsequent optimization.

During the second phase, the focus shifted to optimizing parameters and the production process. The goal was to define the most efficient production flow and steps, while meeting the desired standards of quality, productivity, and yield. Essential factors, such as temperature ranges and homogenization levels, played a crucial role in achieving the desired product characteristics, such as freshness and a smooth recognizable texture.

The third phase aimed to enhance productivity (yield in time) by further optimizing the production flow and making necessary adjustments to the large-scale recipe. This phase involved addressing challenges related to ingredient ratios, ensuring that the sensory parameters such as texture, smoothness, density, and interactive taste were met without compromising the nutritional profile.

Finally, the last phase was dedicated to conducting complete production, taking all the learning into account. With it, we confirmed all the steps, the equipment, parameters, recipe adjustments, and productivity of all tastes in full batch capacity, including the preparation of ingredients, the production process, destiny optimization, bottling, capping, and labeling. This encompassed tasks like ingredient preparation, production processes, optimization of filling quantities, bottling, capping, and labeling. The successful completion of this phase marked a significant milestone in the journey.

Having successfully completed the large-scale production phase, our current focus centers on strategically bringing Meal in a Bottle to the market through the most suitable selling channels, effectively reaching our targeted consumer groups.

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