The Product Creation Process
It’s something we’ve always been so intrigued by, especially in the pre-pollen days - how does a product actually make it to the shelf? It seemed like such a simple process: come up with an idea, make it, package it, put it on a shelf - how hard can it be? (ok so we weren’t quite that naive, but we weren’t far off). And it always felt so baffling as to why there weren’t so many more products on the shelves - if you can make such a good, clean cake at home, why are all the ones on the shelves (even in the health stores) full gums and regulators etc? And why are all fresh options - salads/sandwiches/pastas just lacking a bit in life and flavour? And what affects the price? Who decides what is available? Do people really predict and follow ‘food trends’?
Maybe not universal thoughts when merely trying to decide what to eat for lunch (clearly a career within the food sector was always destined), but nonetheless, we thought we’d try to shed a little light on it - at least on the process within pollen + grace, and how we get from an idea to shelf ready products ahead of the launch of collection 3.0 on Tuesday.
The fun bit! And yes, it really is the fun bit. We never get tired of coming up with ideas of how to improve our current products or develop new ones - as much as we fall in love with them, we always stick to our 6 month updates as the team always has so many more ideas to trial. As we grow, the process has definitely changed though. It’s a little less ‘we like it, so let’s make it’ and a little more towards things such as production capabilities (having to bake too many things is very time consuming with limited oven space, having to squeeze 100+ lemons a day is nobody’s idea of fun and having to make too many different types of hummus with limited blenders is never good idea to name a few), product attributes (cauliflower smells incredibly bad after 24hrs, avocado goes brown, dressed salads wilt, nuts will go soggy if not stored properly etc. etc.) and seasonality/availability/affordability. Once these are all factored in though, and our naturopath has planned out a map of nutrition focus points, and related ingredients/cooking styles, we will continuously test and trial until we find the perfect match of flavours.
The bit they maybe don’t tell you about so much. Having a relatively long (e.g. definitely longer than one day) shelf life on your products pretty crucial, but making this happen when your products are 100% natural is always quite tricky. Recently however, we’ve be trialling the use of super foods and natural preservatives such as lemon juice and spices to help our food stay fresh and taste great for as long as possible - It’s amazing just what nature can do!
As for the actual ‘testing’ part of it, when we first started, out tests were a little more on the makeshift side - we’d store each product in the fridge for a number of days then test it ourselves (it worked a treat at the time, although we definitely don’t miss the worry of potentially having to test ‘off’ products). Now everything’s much more formal - labs will test every element of the products for us across 4 days until they know the exact date that every component of the product will last until. Efficient, yes. Slightly daunting when waiting for the results? Definitely.
Seriously, this bit should come with a manual - getting your nutritional information correct is incredibly important yet knowing how to actually do that is no mean feat. We started using online calculators which gave results our naturopath was happy with, but to get 100% accurate results, everything is again sent off for lab testing, which requires you to send the weight of each element both dry and cooked (sounds straight forward, huh? Chia seeds will become your worst nightmare, and weighing out every element of a dressing over and over again is enough to make a grown man cry). Finding out the exact nutritional breakdown of your food, and seeing the health benefits transpire into scientific proof is so rewarding though!
Last but not least! There are endless options and design ideas (Pinterest was the cause of many a late night when designing our packaging). But it’s fun (in a ‘we have to get this perfect, and we have no budget, but everything is so pretty and exciting’ type of way), and when you finally get the finished print in your hand… the love is real. Using an agency/designer is a pretty key step, and finding someone who really understands the brand will be a huge help! We’re a pretty opinionated office of girls though and we know exactly what we want, so finding someone to help us create this to the very last detail was quite a task - many a late night were spent tweaking the tiniest of details that probably only matter to us, but that’s just the nature of how we do things! There’s also a lot of restrictions as to what you can put on the packaging - for every health claim you make, it has to be sent off and approved (tedious, very tedious) so we’ve had to become smarter as to how we portray the health values of our products. Whilst we are aware that the combination of ingredients in some products will definitely help towards reducing free radicals, or skin elasticity, we’re not actually allowed to claim this (although saying it will help you loose weight is totally acceptable… but we’ll not go into that debate again today). Whilst it puts up barriers for us, I’m sure it still does good though - I’m sure there’d be a whole world of untrue health claims out there if not!
So once we’re developed, tested, nutritionally calculated, then potted and packaged, it’s time to hit the shelves! The development of collection 3.0 has really felt like a step up for us - as we say maybe a little too often in HQ, ‘this is really legit’ (as in we are a real, functioning business, and for some reason we’re still struggling to comprehend this). We can’t wait for you all to see it, taste it and enjoy it next week!