Jonathan is a New Product Development Manager at AYMES International. He has extensive experience of working in the food supplement industry, predominantly in a Product Development role. We caught up with Jonathan to find out more about his role at AYMES.
Hi Jonathan, thanks for joining us! Please could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi Harriet, thanks for having me! After completing my degree in Food Science and a Masters in International Management, I have spent over 13 years in the food supplement industry, predominantly in a Product Development role. My background is formulation science, particularly on nutritional powders, bars and supplements. I’m naturally an entrepreneurial character who is always thinking of ways to improve things, so this role is perfect for me! In my spare time I enjoy spending quality time with my partner and two children, playing golf and going to the gym.
I am extremely lucky that my career has allowed me to travel all over the world – from sourcing the highest quality ingredients to working closely with suppliers and specialist NPD teams in key subject areas, I have travelled to China, USA and pretty much the whole of Europe in my quest for developing the best products available for each specific market.
What led to you working in the medical nutrition industry?
Having worked in the nutrition industry for all of my professional career, I was looking for a change in environment without changing the role that I carry out. I thrive in an NPD role and I am naturally creative, so transitioning into the medical nutrition industry allowed me to be creative and apply my skills to a totally different industry at the same time.
Coming from an extremely fast paced and rapidly evolving market such as nutrition gave me a great platform to apply the key principles to medical nutrition, complimented by extremely experienced Clinical Dietitians within the team. The synergistic effect from my background in formulation science and the hands-on experience of the Dietitians at AYMES gives us a great platform to create the highest-quality medical nutrition products to meet patients’ needs.
Are there certain skills or qualifications required to work in NPD?
Yes – typically you would have a background in food or nutritional science, and then it’s based on experience and specialising in a subject area. As an example, I specialise in supplement formulation science. I started my career formulating protein powders, bars, meal replacements and fortified supplements, and my knowledge has grown based on the product portfolios that I have worked on over the years. Typically people that work in New Product Development are creative, entrepreneurial, process driven and adhere to the highest quality standards of work.
You’re currently working as New Product Development (NPD) Manager at AYMES. What does your role entail?
My role as an NPD Manager at AYMES is very broad and includes a wide range of responsibilities. From sourcing raw materials with suppliers, looking for new manufacturing partners, maintaining relationships with existing suppliers and partners, benchmarking products and label checking, quality and compliance testing, range development and project management.
An important aspect of my role is to work on new product formulations in order to ensure that the AYMES product portfolio continues to meet market demand. I ensure that our products adhere to compliance, use high-quality ingredients and are based on carefully thought out formulations to deliver ‘best in class’ products to market. Each and every product that is developed goes through a strict and robust screening process to ensure that we use the finest quality ingredients and partner with manufacturers with the highest quality accreditation available. The products also undergo extensive sensory paneling to ensure the product is not only fit for purpose nutritionally but provides a great taste for the patient.
Continuous product improvement is a huge part of my role. At AYMES, we love to keep products up-to-date and regularly listen to feedback from our patients, dietitians and other healthcare professionals in order to ensure the product fulfills its clinical needs and is in line with the latest research and developments.
Could you talk us through a typical day of work?
A typical day starts at around 8.30am. A huge benefit to my role (and the reason I love it so much) is that no two days are the same. My role varies from day-to-day; some days I may be working on calculations for formulations and quality and compliance protocols, other days I may be brainstorming new product ideas, researching the market for new ingredients or arranging supplier visits. Forward thinking is essential to an NPD role as it ensures that AYMES continue to innovate within the market. As an example, today I am working on some final due diligence testing for a product that we will be aiming to launch at the end of the year.
Please provide a brief overview of the various stages involved in developing a new Oral Nutritional Supplement (ONS) product.
We have a 50-step process that encompasses formulation, through to product launch. This process runs through every single department in the company, from product development, regulatory and compliance, purchasing, supply chain, marketing and sales, all of whom have different responsibilities. Once a concept has been approved, as New Product Development Manager, I am responsible for sourcing high quality, sustainable ingredients working with manufacturers to develop prototypes which can then be sampled internally. There can be many iterations of this stage before development is moved on as standards are extremely high when it comes to product quality and taste. By the time a product is launched it would not have been unusual for me to have sampled each flavour variant in excess of 10 times! The baton is then passed to regulatory and compliance who organise and oversee acceptability trials to ensure that the product is enjoyed by patients too. Once completed, these are then collated and submitted to the Advisory Committee on Borderline Substances for review. Supply chain not only ensure that the product is manufactured and delivered into wholesalers, but are constantly looking for new ways to reduce our carbon footprint, whether that be by reducing the amount of packaging, ensuring recyclable materials are used in the production process, or just by making efficiencies in transportation. By the time sales and marketing start promoting a new product, it has usually been in development for a very long time, so it is a proud moment when I see the concept I started working on all those years ago become a reality!
Are there certain industry regulations/guidelines that you must adhere to during the product development stages?
Yes - there are many quality and safety regulations that AYMES adheres to to ensure that the product is fit for purpose for our patients. This can be product-specific - as an example, if we are working on a product for dysphagia patients, we must work within IDDSI guidelines, which defines the thickening levels of fluids and foods. In addition to this, we work to the highest quality standards internally and externally and adhere to Foods for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP) and the Food Information Regulations (FIR).
What are the biggest challenges that you face during the product development stage?
In a nutshell, the biggest challenge is creating a medical nutrition product that meets the patients’ nutritional requirements, without compromising taste and texture. From a process point of view, in order to ensure that all aspects of the processes are adhered to, this can be time consuming and challenging.
Which AYMES products have you most enjoyed developing?
I’ve recently been working on the minor reformulation of AYMES Shake. We were able to increase the protein content without passing on any additional cost to the NHS, whilst using the highest quality ingredients available. Extensive sensory evaluations validate that we were able to maintain the great taste of our products whilst delivering an improved nutritional profile, bringing benefits to patients.