Due to extraordinary market conditions, Tesco asked us to supply coleslaw and potato salad products within just six months. In order to meet this challenging deadline, we had to become product experts, design a process, create a new manufacturing unit and train our teams – fast.
And it wasn’t just two products, we had to deliver different product types, different packaging formats and weights as well as mixed twin pots.
Project Crunch, a cross functional team of experienced stakeholders and project managers from engineering , finance , technical and NPD, was born.
Before we could think about the manufacturing unit set up, we had to understand the complexity and composition of the recipes, starting with the mayonnaise.
Mayonnaise includes ingredients that we’d never worked with before on this scale. We had to understand how these ingredients worked together and how they would react under processing conditions. Our first port of call was to one of our dressing and sauces suppliers. They worked with us on recipe development and helped us to deliver a mayonnaise that could withstand the manufacturing process without compromising on taste and quality.
Enter the New Product Development and Process Development Teams who, with the working mayonnaise recipe, rolled up their sleeves to work on the right product composition, from the piece size and shape of the carrots and cabbage in the coleslaws to the shape and texture of the potato in potato salads.
With working products and ingredients it was now time to refine the recipes to test, taste and test again! Hours were spent in the development kitchen analysing the size and shape of the ingredients, ensuring the mayonnaise was of the right consistency and working out the manufacturing unit needs to ensure that the fantastic products we’d created in our kitchens could be replicated on a large-scale.
Resourcefulness Rules: manufacturing the products
To manage the tight time-frame, whilst we were busy in the kitchen, we also had to gear up part of our Selsey manufacturing unit with the right facilities and equipment to produce the new products.
Creating and installing an automated process from scratch was out of the question with the amount of time we had. We decided to design the processes ourselves in individual segments, with multiple companies working on each part. Our engineers then had the challenging job of making sure these parts could all fit and work together seamlessly – it felt like a jigsaw puzzle at times.
To create a food-safe working environment, the New Product Development Team worked in shifts around the engineers, running trials to make sure the carefully designed products that worked in our kitchen processes continued to do so during the manufacturing processing. At one point we had 30 engineers in the manufacturing unit, working 24-hour shifts.
Out of the kitchen and into the manufacturing unit
It was time for small-scale trials of potato salad at our Merston manufacturing unit. We needed to test the pumping equipment, manufacturing speed and product stability so that consumers could rely on the same product every time and we had to do this at our Merston facility whilst the Selsey facility was being geared up for its production debut.
Exactly one week before launch date, we installed the last line. The Tesco team were delighted, as were we!
It was a team effort with every area of the business working to hit the deadline. The Project Crunch team met at least once a week to focus on products, timeline and delivery and in the space of sixteen weeks we went from an empty manufacturing unit space to full production on all products.
Delivering this project has taught us more than just how to create coleslaw and potato salad products. We are now experts at sourcing and processing all the component ingredients, which has helped us to improve the original products. Our flexible and agile approach is also something we know we can apply to other product opportunities in the future.
Tasting and testing is key to a successful new product. We tasted more coleslaw and potato salad in those few weeks than we ever thought possible! This was essential. We had to ensure that everyone knew exactly what Tesco consumers wanted so that we knew we could produce top quality products day in and day out.
The final word