When The J.M. Smucker Co. wanted to launch a new ready-to-use Pillsbury brand pastry bag the idea was such a natural fit that early research showed that consumers were ready to have it on store shelves yesterday.
But taking a package from concept to reality has become a lot more difficult in recent years in large part because of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Chris Cetner, R&D packaging manager at The J.M. Smucker Co., recently spoke during The Packaging Conference in Orlando, Fla. about how consumer packaging and scale have been impacted by the new regulations.
“The shift, more than anything, has been documentation and our accessibility to documentation so that we can pull it up rapidly," Cetner says. “Before FSMA we were making sure that all these boxes were checked from the standpoint of, ‘Are we using credible suppliers? Do they have controls in place?’ But we didn’t go through this additional step of making sure that all the documents were readily accessible and all in one spot.”
Cetner points to the example of what eventually became the Pillsbury Filled Pastry Bag. It was designed because consumer research showed that people don’t like putting frosting in a pastry bag. So they created a pre-filled pastry bag with a built-in star tip that’s ready-to-use.
“The feedback [from consumer tests] was, ‘Man I feel empowered to try to do more of an upscale decoration,’” Cetner recalls. “From a marketing perspective, they’re saying, ‘Hey, we’re ready to go!’ And for us, we’re saying, ‘We don’t know how to produce it.’ We didn’t have the capabilities in house.”
And that left the company in a gap between production and finished product — a gap they stayed in for three quarters of a year.
“We went down one path, we thought we had a strategy in place and all of a sudden that strategy failed… and we had to restart the work,” Cetner recalls.
Eventually, a vendor said they had a sealer the company could use.
“And really that’s when this project went from being stuck to being able to accelerate,” he says.
But first there were issues that had to be addressed. Would they be able to sanitize the equipment? Would the production facility be able to accommodate them? And could they pull the process together?
And of course, they had to make sure everything was compliant with FSMA.
“I need to have all the documents well laid out,” he says. “This isn’t as simple as just turn on the pump and let’s shoot some frosting into this bag. If there’s an audit, even if we’re producing one item I need to know lot code traceability.”
Plus, from a packaging standpoint, material supplier information was now required up front for development.
“FSMA does not care what the gram weight is, they don’t care,” Cetner says. “You just need to be able to document that you have packaging that’s safe to be consumed out of.”
Once they got to the point of producing product though, they went from scale to store shelves faster than it took them to figure out scale.
“Scaling for us is critical and it is an area that we see those projects meet a road block and we know that once we solve that roadblock, things are going to move quite rapidly for us,” Cetner says, adding that vendors who can help food and beverage companies overcome those issues create a lot of value for themselves. In fact, the supplier that helped them in this case ended up getting their business when they went into production.
And if you have now found yourself craving frosting, you should know that the Filled Pastry Bag is available in three classic Pillsbury Creamy Supreme frosting flavors, Vanilla, Chocolate Fudge and Cream Cheese, and contains the same amount of frosting as the traditional 16-ounce tub for a suggested retail price of just $3.49. Happy decorating.