Surviving, and thriving, in a pressing economic climate will dominate the modus operandi for bakers and pastry makers active in today's, and tomorrow's, market and innovative concepts that can ramp up underlying growth are essential, such as the award-winning edible spoons from Belgian firm Gourmet Pidy.
Highlighted by the judges at this year's SIAL, that handpicks and showcases over 240 innovative food product launches, the pastry spoons gained the 'special jury prize' for their innovative packaging, a vertical clam shell, as well as their neat ability to slot into the growing trend for sophistication and easy to handle products.
The product is one of about ten new product launches this year from family-owned Gourmet Pidy that, despite the considerable cost commitment, is fully aware that innovation is essential in challenging times to keep ahead of the curve.
"R&D is very expensive, and only one out of ten products conceived by us will actually hit the market," said Thierry Dehaeck, president of Gourmet Pidy.
"But investment in our R&D gives us a quick, flexible reaction to demand, enabling us to react rapidly to economic changes," he told BakeryAndSnacks.com.
Unlike an exchange-listed firm, key decisions at Pidy do not require a board-shareholder stamp of approval, a fact, said Dehaeck, that contributes to the flexibility of the firm and its ability to react quickly.
You also need to be a specialist, with specialised skills in what you do, he added.
Like all food makers, over the past year Dehaeck has been confronted by rising input costs, from logistics to ingredients. "We saw a high increase in vegetable shortenings, while they have now dropped slightly, they're still high. Transport costs have risen tremendously, and we export to 40 countries."
When asked how the firm is coping with such price inflation, the president responded: "Automation".
"Automation is key to keeping prices down," he continued. The firm invested in an automatic packaging system carried out by robots that, according to the CEO, has brought cost savings in labour, in turn helping to buffer price inflation for the customer.
The system, created by the firm's technologists together with their packaging system supplier, had to overcome a number of challenges, notably the packing of irregular-shaped products by robots.
But for Dehaeck, automation not only helps to keep prices down, the system also underpins a quicker reaction time to market changes. The firm, founded by Dehaeck's father, has factories in Belgium, France and the US, along with a physiological laboratory, a bacteriological laboratory to check sensitive raw materials like eggs, and an R&D lab.
Selected by SIAL's judges for the concept of ready to fill, edible spoons, and delivered in either a neutral or sweet taste, Pidy's puff pastry and short crust spoonette product hit the market in September this year.
The innovative firm, that claims to be the "world leader in ambient ready to fill pastry" also recently rolled out sweet or savoury mini-cones, presented with hardware consisting of black clips that hook onto the saucer of a coffee cup. In addition, the mini-cone hardware includes a painter's pallet that serves as a mini-cone holder, and a transparent plexi stand for the product.