The Product Center works with clients to help standardize home recipe into commercial market recipes. This process assists clients in troubleshooting problems that they may have in translating their recipe into a product. Other product development assistance includes quality and function limitations for overall product improvement. The Product Center can also help facilitate relationships with Michigan kitchen incubators.
The Product Center’s Innovation Counselors are experts in helping you ask the right questions to create a profitable business and guide you through the process of writing your business plan, reviewing and revising it on a regular basis. Their expert guidance will help you become comfortable with the process of identifying your business strengths and weaknesses, competition, financing, marketing strategies, etc., so that you not only develop skills to keep your business on track, you’ll also find it easier to raise capital.
There are many different types of food products and therefore, operations and production methods for each are unique. The Product Center performs the process authority review for shelf stability, resulting in a product classification pre-FDA. For perishable and refrigerated items, this process, referred to as shelf life, is usually outsourced. The product may fall under three categories – acid, acidified, or low-acid foods. Depending on which classification your product falls into, different regulations, and methods of operation and production will be assessed during scale-up.
The Product Center facilitates interaction with MSU’S College of Law’s Small Business & Nonprofit Clinic to empower small businesses and nonprofit organizations throughout Michigan. The Small Business & Nonprofit Clinic provide necessary assistance during the start-up phase, on-going continuation phase, and expansion phase by offering quality counseling, legal advice and representation, and community education information.
Starting a business requires a substantial investment, not only of an entrepreneur’s time and money but also funds from outside funding sources. In order to minimize risk and significantly improve their success in funding viable business concepts, many lenders require an independent third party feasibility study to determine whether a project has a high probability of generating the type of profits necessary to fulfill the lender’s expectations.
The Product Center assists clients in conducting feasibility studies that define the scope of your business, determines your objectives, identifies the problems and opportunities that you will face and explores alternative solutions for solving each problem. The result is an analytical cost-benefit tool that will give the lender a sound basis on which to make the critical “go/no go” decision on whether your business concept is viable and deserves funding.
Market research is critical in identifying characteristics of current and potential customers and developing new business opportunities to merge with product mix and business strengths. Market research can improve market performance through analysis of elements such as pricing and distribution.
The Product Center has access to an extensive array of internationally recognized market research databases including customer demographics, values and decision processes as well as competing product features and claims. In addition, the Product Center assists entrepreneurs in creating and implementing customized market research including surveys and focus groups. Our Innovation Counselors assist entrepreneurs in interpreting market research results to ensure marketing strategies reflect the correct pricing, distribution, service, product mix and brand management necessary to grow their businesses.
In addition, the Product Center sponsors Michigan MarketMaker™, a valuable market research tool and virtual marketplace where consumers, distributors and businesses connect. It offers a free map-based demographic research tool that enables entrepreneurs to identify potential customer locations. It also features a searchable database of businesses that may offer Michigan-made ingredients. http://mi.foodmarketmaker.com
Marketing planning is a mandatory element of business planning that identifies opportunities in the marketplace for entrepreneurs to maximize. A successful marketing plan comprises market factors, competition, product characteristics, pricing, advertising, promotion, publicity, sales and customer service and integrates a profitability formula.
The Product Center Innovation Counselors team are continually involved in bringing new products to market and are experts in key areas such as pricing strategies, regulations on product claims, marketing that will reach decision makers, and fostering collaborations with distributors and suppliers. Developing a marketing plan with an Innovation Counselor can often mean the difference between a successful product launch and a stalled business idea, accelerating clients through meeting FDA and regulatory marketing plan requirements.
The Product Center works in conjunction with the MSU Food Science and Packaging departments and is lead by Dr. Janice Harte, the primary contact for the MSU Food Sensory Laboratory. Dr. Harte has assisted the food industry and entrepreneurs by providing information, testing services, referrals for food product development and sensory evaluation needs, and she serves as a liaison for food processing and food safety information. The Food Sensory Laboratory consists of a testing area (organoleptic), training area (educate industry, students or professionals in food safety) and preparation area (for samples).
The MSU School of Packaging offers testing services and expert faculty who are available for consultation. Clients can also have their food product available for the student Capstone project, which studies solutions for efficient packaging for all food and non-food products.
Label Design/Nutrition Labeling
A good food label not only distinguishes a product from its competitors but also saves costs in conforming to FDA regulations and complementing the initial requirements of MDA. The Product Center works with the MSU Food Science and Nutrition Department to develop product identification and nutrition facts.
Below is the FDA link to Food Labeling Regulations for your information:
Recipes need to be production ready to ensure Nutrition Facts accuracy. See Fee Schedule for particular costs.
Product Center Innovation Counselors are experienced in USDA and FDA regulatory requirements for food products at both the state and federal levels. The Product Center also works with experts from the office and associated consultants of the MSU Food Science department. Additional assistance can be provided in understanding the regulatory requirements placed upon products manufactured and sold in Michigan, either direct to the customer or through commercial channels.