Safe Foods International Holdings, LLC (SFIH) announced the acquisition of the International Food Network (IFN), a consulting firm providing product development services from initial idea generation through commercialization. The partnership between IFN and SFIH’s other holding, The National Food Laboratory (The NFL), a consulting and testing firm supporting the food and beverage industry, will create a group able to provide a comprehensive offering of product and process development solutions for a broad set of products and clients.
“IFN is very proud to be joining the Safe Foods family. We are known for developing foods, beverages and ingredients that taste better while being better for you and SFIH’s focus on food safety and sound nutrition is very congruent with our values ," said Peter Salmon, founder and CEO of IFN. “The NFL’s leadership in sensory research, consumer testing, food safety, analytical services and process authority services are perfect complements to our skills in product and process development."
The combined entity will now offer more than 100 in-house subject matter experts, four R&D centers (including one in Europe), 10 product development labs and culinary kitchens, more than 4,000 square feet of modular pilot plant space, proximity to additional pilot plant space and technical contacts at leading food science universities, 36 computerized sensory booths/consumer test stations, and both chemistry and microbiology analytical labs.
These high-tech, hands-on facilities are becoming key to innovation in the functional food space—Cargill and Tate & Lyle are two companies, among others, offering similar, intensive services to manufacturers. The former completed a $5.5-million expansion of its Food Innovation Center in Plymouth, Minnesota last year, while the latter opened its Commercial and Food Innovation Centre in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, in 2012.
The idea—similar to that forged by the partnership between The NFL and IFN, which will have facilities in Livermore, California, Ithaca, New York, Naples, Florida, and Reading, UK—is to provide top-notch resources and encourage collaboration to simplify product development and accelerate delivery to market.
Another example is Ardent Mills’ Mobile Innovation Center, introduced in 2014, that travels to bring its culinary expertise and resources directly to manufacturers.
These facilities are testament to the industry’s changing landscape—once upon a time, collaboration between developers and ingredient suppliers was minimal. But as consumers increasingly seek healthy, safe and tasty food products, manufacturers are faced with the challenge to incorporate nutritious, efficacious ingredients while maintaining good taste, shelf life and safety in the finished product—a feat that could take years to complete.
Taking advantage of the resources offered by these facilities can aid manufacturers, many of which have slimmed R&D resources, the result of tight margins and tough competition in the food landscape. Another great resource is INSIDER’s Functional Foods Digital Issue, which looks at functional food trends and addresses food formulating.