food manufacturers
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The latest annual survey on research and development (R&D) among U.S. food manufacturers, carried out by Food Processing, reveals that almost half of the businesses will focus on brand new products in 2013.

The number of companies that will concentrate on coming up with new production is up 8 percent on last year, with 48 percent of those polled citing this as top priority for their organization's R&D departments. The last time that so many respondents declared an intention to focus on innovation was in 2010. This could be interpreted as a signal that businesses have fully recovered from the recession and are ready to start growing, researchers commented.

Although food manufacturers are not neglecting the importance of improving existing products, many of them believe that new products should lie at the heart of the industry development for this year. Markets these days are fiercely competitive and new products could be a game-changer for those that manage to produce appealing new products. One of the respondents stated that while his organization will still try to come up with cost-effective ideas in their portfolios, major efforts will be made to expand in a new direction that will result in future growth.

Growth is one thing that U.S. food processors have seen on an annual basis because consumers simply cannot cut down on food. However, R&D departments in particular have seen better times, Food Processing said. This year's study showed that the number of respondents who have seen an increase in their R&D budget fell two percent compared to last year. The proportion of those whose R&D budget has been cut also went down 3 percent. The majority of respondents said that their budgets remained unchanged from 2012.

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Meanwhile, nearly one in four food industry representatives admitted that the top priority in their R&D strategy this year will be ways to cut costs. For one in 10 respondents, the leading factor this year will be manufacturing organic products. Further down the list of priorities, interviewees listed dietary guidelines (7.3 percent), palliative health (6.1 percent) and preventive health (4 percent), while ecological aspects, including sustainability and fair trade production, still lack widespread recognition, cited as most important by just 1.6 percent.

It is difficult to pinpoint just one aspect of business that you want to work on, commented Teresa Kloch, a food technologist at New York-based Perry's Ice Cream. Businesses just cannot afford to overlook one thing to focus on another, she added. Perry's Ice Cream is going to address new product development but will also work on product improvement, ingredient consolidation and line extensions at the same time, Kloch said.

For this year's survey Food Processing interviewed 514 respondents, compared to the 409 who took part last year. Participants were asked to fill in an online questionnaire.