Ian Purvis, senior account manager at Baker Perkins, said that over the last decade bakery and snack makers had increasingly looked to equipment suppliers for knowledge on new product development.
“In some areas of the processing industries there’s been a decline in knowledge and they increasingly look to their suppliers to help them with answers,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com at the AACCI’s annual meeting in Providence, Rhode Island earlier this month.
He said that grain science was, therefore, a vital area to understand. “The science of grains is pretty fundamental to a lot of what we do in helping our customers make their end products on our equipment,” Purvis said.
With twin-screw extrusion processing, for example, breakfast cereal and snack makers wanted help developing favorably shaped products or perhaps a product with a protein matrix.
“The processing tricks or understanding is very closely tied to both the materials – the cereal grains themselves and the functionality of those – and getting results out of the equipment… [Manufacturers] are really looking for the supplier to understand how to deliver a result," Purvis said.
Can you put a price on knowledge?
Nonetheless, Purvis said equipment suppliers faced a challenge in terms of putting a price on this added knowledge.
“The difficulty from a business perspective is helping our customers to assign a value to that knowledge that we’re providing and to pay for that in the equipment,” he said.
However, with easier communication tools where manufacturers could put specs online and solicit bids globally, this was not easy task for suppliers, he said. But the increasing amount of knowledge, research and investment from suppliers had to be considered by manufacturers, he said.
Academia, regulation, industry: Where equipment suppliers sit
Asked where equipment suppliers fit in the academia, regulation and industry triangle, Purvis said towards the industry end, but he added that it was increasingly important to keep close tabs on the regulatory climate.
“We can’t be oblivious to the regulatory environment; it’s becoming very much tighter," he said. "Immediately food safety comes to mind – it’s a huge demand now and everybody is very conscious about it and a lot of people are very scared about what’s coming, because it’s moved to a situation where the regulatory authorities are looking to find out who’s at fault; it’s not just compliance, it’s really responsibility.”