Prodcuct development – always aim to provide a solution to a problem.

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Food and beverage businesses are constantly urged to be innovative, creative and disruptive. The reality is, very, very few completely original food or beverage products are launched – almost all of them are riffs on old recipes or products that have been in the market for decades. True innovation provides a solution to a problem faced by the consumer. Sometimes you may have a problem of excess stock or a bumper harvest, but for long term goals you should set your sights on solving consumer issues. For a chance of long-term success in the market place look at developing innovative products is to look past your recipes and your favourite foods and really see what the consumer is searching for.


Take this recipe for gluten free, dairy free Coconut Lemon Drizzle Cake I developed to solve a problem in my spare time.


My job means I usually having a wide range of ingredients in my pantry – they may be samples from suppliers, left-overs from development jobs or products I bought for research. However, my job also means I also a deep sense of being “over” going grocery shopping.


So when six of the Malaysian rellies turned up to stay I needed provide a  welcome offering I rummage to make their tastes and preferences, I rummaged in the pantry and scan the garden for inspiration.


New product development projects require a brief with sections a little like this:

Available ingredients: – lemons right outside the kitchen window, almond meal, coconut flour, coconut oil, coconut cream in the pantry.


Product Aims: A flavoursome, un-fussy sweet snack that says “welcome to Australia” and has sensory characteristics appreciated by the target consumer group – The Chinese Malaysian relatives enjoy small, sweet snacks and are not hugely keen on lots of dairy or gluten rich carbs (unless it’s at breakfast). They have just got off a 6 hour flight and don’t want anything too heavy or too foreign.

Another aim is to present a homemade product that shows I care but didn’t spend hours slaving in the kitchen or spend a lot of money on ingredients


Innovations: gluten free cake is a no-brainer, but how about doubling up to dairy free with a slosh of soy milk and a dollop of coconut cream?


Outcome: Coconut Lemon Drizzle Cake.


Sensory characteristics: Moist like a Pandan Cake but light like a Huat Kueh steamed Chinese rice cake and bursting with Australian freshness and flavour from the backyard Meyer lemon tree. It’s the perfect fusion and ready in an hour.


Here’s how



In food manufacturing ingredients are sorted in to input groups that relate to the processing steps.  They can be weighed out ahead of time and this helps to keep track of input and batch weights and double check to see if anything has been left out.



Lemon juice – 1/2 cup or 100g

Sugar – 1/3 cup or 60g

Lemon zest – from one whole lemon

Coconut cream – 1/4 cup  or 90g


Group 1

Eggs – 2

Sugar – 2/3 cup or 120g

Coconut oil – 1 dessert spoon or 25g

Coconut cream – 1/4 cup or 90g


Group 2

Coconut flour – 1.5 cups or 150g

Ground almonds – 1.5 cups or 150g


Group 3

Soya milk – 1/2 cup or 100g


Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Line a loaf tin with baking parchment and sit in a heatproof dish of water, have ready a long wooden skewer and a cake rack.




Place syrup ingredients in a small pan and simmer gently until reduced to 1/2 a cup or 100g while you make the cake batter.

On medium power, beat group 1 ingredients for 2 minutes until pale and creamy

Add group 2 ingredients and mix together with a large metal spoon.

Pour in to lined loaf tin and set in oven to steam for 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and water bath and prick with wooden skewer.

Pour over syrup and put back in oven.

Remove after ten minutes or when the edges are golden brown.

Allow to cook in the tin on a rack for half an hour. Remove carefully, and leave the backing parchment on to catch all the syrup.



A fair bit of kudos for me and a delicious afternoon tea treat that matched the target consumer’s preferences. They stayed for two weeks – plenty of time to gear up to custard slices and pavlovas.