Ins, Outs of Technical Review: Q&A With Boyle

A technical review is the process whereby a food maker speaks with a contract manufacturer to determine if their product can be produced at the production facility.

David Boyle
Aug 23

This article was originally posted from an interview with the Specialty Food Association. Learn more about the organization and read the full article via this link: https://www.specialtyfood.com/news/article/ins-and-outs-technical-review-q-commercialization-specialist-boyle/

David Boyle, founder of Boyle Brands, is passionate about setting up specialty food brands for success as they navigate co-packing and operations to get new products on shelves.  During his SFA webinar, taking place this Thursday, August 11, he will discuss what food brands need to know when engaging in technical reviews.

A technical review is the process whereby a food maker speaks with a contract manufacturer to determine if their product can be produced at the production facility. During this integral step in the co-packer search, all product intricacies must be made clear to determine whether the manufacturer is a fit for one's product.

SFA News Daily recently spoke with Boyle.

What are the key considerations when engaging in a technical review?

A technical review is not just for technical matchmaking; this is also a key part of the process where the co-packer is feeling out how serious of a brand you are and whether they want to take on your project. This technical review process will enable most contract manufacturers to determine if it is a fit or not to move forward and will also give them the information necessary to provide a quote. Now you can take their pricing, their daily minimum order quantities, and any other applicable information to make the decision whether the co-packer is the right fit for your business. The key to a buttoned-up technical review process is to put you in the driver’s seat of whether you want to move forward with that manufacturer. A clean technical review process will eliminate common roadblocks or “deal fatigue” that would lead a co-packer to stop responding to you and instead replace that with more manufacturers who have expressed interest to make your food product.

Is there something that food makers aren't doing that they should be doing when beginning a technical review?

Getting on-boarded with a contract manufacturer is one of the most difficult facets of consumer packaged goods operations and many brands downplay what an important relationship this is to your success as a food brand. This is a complex and long-term business partnership with the actual party that will be making your food for your business. There are legal agreements, insurance requirements, packaging review, formula review, food safety reviews, and cost analysis that needs to take place with both parties. Any brand that reaches out hoping to run "ASAP" or in the next month is ultimately brought to the bottom of the list and not regarded as an important lead. Many brands underestimate how long this process will take to get through and how excruciatingly long it will take for the contract manufacturer to get through and analyze.

The average small-scale contract manufacturer is dealing with 60-100 CPG brand clients and balancing time between their growing customer base as well as new accounts. You have to be both patient and persistent in your onboarding process. Persistent to keep the co-packer organized and not be dismayed when they are not answering your emails right away, but patient by budgeting enough time to go through your co-packer onboarding from lab samples, costing review, line trials, co-packer onboarding agreements, and ultimately production.

What is the most difficult aspect of the technical review for food manufacturers?

The most difficult aspect happens when the product has not been manufactured at a contract manufacturing facility before and you are scaling up your business from in-house manufacturing. Many times, specialty food makers run into trouble when they are scaling up production and moving from their in-house facility to a high-volume contract manufacturer. Many times, the move to a contract manufacturer will require subtle changes to the formulas and/or packaging formats to qualify that manufacturer as a fit to move forward.

Too often, food makers will immediately disqualify a co-packing option because they are not packaging the product the exact same way. However, for many brands with a smaller distribution that are just starting to scale this is the perfect time to make strategic changes that will allow them to work with a larger pool of contract manufacturers. The trick is to make changes to your product to make it efficient for large-scale manufacturing without losing the soul of the product.

Do you recommend any tips for food makers to best communicate their product and its needs?

You can break down the key concepts of your product into four quick questions:

1. What is the product? Which is the final percentage ratio/formula and any certification needs.

2. How do you make the product? These include processing steps and pasteurization needs.

3. How is the product packaged? These are the single unit packaging, retail packaging, master case, and palletization needs.

4. How much do you need? What are the annual volume projections that you need for this product?

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