It is the heart of our job and it is also what we like to do the most: searching for new specialties, evaluating them and choosing new products, to keep inspiring you with new ideas
⏱ 4 MINUTES READING
Last year, in these column, we told you how some of our operations are structured, from cheese-cutting to orders fulfillment. This year we would like to start again from the beginning, to tell you how it works, in our company, the process of research and selection to insert new products in our range: a job that represents the beating heart of Valsana, which identifies and differentiates us the most.
"Selecting.. with taste" is the payoff we have chosen to introduce ourselves with, because in two words it says exactly what we do.We choose the products - or even better the producers - we want to invest on, and we do it "with taste", "con gusto" in Italian: a wordplay to recall the organoleptic evalutation but also our own style and above all how much we enjoy looking for new ideas, choosing who to work with, helping small producers to develop the market and, sometimes even the product. Because this is really what we like to do the most in our job.
1. THE SELECTION TEAM
Who is the lucky one in charge of selection?
It is a question we have been often asked, and it is also a job position for which we receive many applications. The truth is that there is not a single lucky person: we have a whole lucky team, responsible for research & selection, that involves the managers of several functions.
First of all Alessandro De Conto, our Sales Director: a role naturally involved in the research & selection process, as he collects the requests of our sales people. Moreover, thanks to his strict relation to the market, he manages to feel the demand, the competitive dynamics and the lifecycle evolution of every single product.
Marketing is also involved in the assortment team. Well yes, I'm part of the lucky team too, with a double aim: to help the sales to anticipate some trends that are not yet a declared need; to start imaging creatively, since the very early meeting with the producers, how to communicate the new products and jointly plan with Alessandro their market introduction.
We could not miss the Quality department: Giorgia Barbaresco is the "technique" of the group, the one who always asks many questions, both during visits and document checks. But she also knows how to put herself in the shoes of the producer, thanks to her experience in production. She is the one who allows us to guarantee the standard of quality that over the years has become part of the identity of our company.
And finally the Purchasing department, with Enrico De Conto. It is precisely the purchases that works daily with the producers, once the product has been selected. Understanding delivery times, crossing sheflife with logistic to assess feasibility, analysing the price list, evaluating inventory turnover: these are all crucial items for the market success of a new product.
The selection team thus combines people with complementary skills, linked by a palate educated to choose products with a soul.
How do we choose on which products or product lines to focus research & selection?
At the beginning of the year, and then more or less every two weeks, the selection team meets to define or review research directions.
The first input comes from the requests of sales managers: when several agents collect the same needs from several customers, the product is included in the list of research proposals. But some directions also start from the desire to respond to market trends, e.g. animal welfare, short supply chain, short label or more recently sustainability of production or packaging. Other times we need to replace a product already in our range, because of an unsatisfying inventory turnover or because we can no longer guarantee a constant quality of the product.
3. THE RESEARCH PROCESS
When we identify the products we want to search for, we try first of all to identify the producers who potentially meet our standards of quality and values.
The search for producers can start by word of mouth, through suggestions collected by the sales managers or from the customers themselves, but also from other producers. Or, in some cases, even through an online search. Another important meeting channel is represented by fairs, thanks to the possibility of meeting the producers in person and tasting the products together. But, at times, the curiosity to discover a new product can also arise from a sampling that the same producer sends us, both new ones from suppliers we already work with, and from new contacts.
To the producers in the shortlist we ask to send us a sample, together with the technical data sheets and the price list, in order to be able to make a complete evaluation of the product and its market positioning.
4.THE EVALUATION PROCESS
The first organoleptic analysis is usually a comparative evaluation: we simultaneously taste several samples of the same product, but from different producers. Sometimes we manage to organize a blind test, in which products are evaluated without knowing the producers, to be as objective as possible in the choice.
The producer who passes this first selection phase is then contacted for a meeting: usually Alessandro, together with Giorgia, personally visit the company to first-hand experience it: breeding methods, production and maturing environments, processing techniques.
If this phase is also passed, we proceed with the request for some consecutive samples, for two reasons: to taste different production batches and verify that the quality of the product is constant, but also to verify packaging, labeling and shipping methods, to check if the product "can travel". In the meantime, our quality dept checks the compliance with the law requirements, analyzing the technical data sheets and other documentary items, wheras the purchasing dept verifies the logistical aspects, such as shipping times, but also sales agreements on product requirements and distribution areas, to draw a supply specification.
If everything goes well, an sku is assigned to the product and we can start collecting the informations we need for the product launch, which usually includes a presentation in the magazine and a meeting with the sales network, where new products are tasted by our agents, hopefully together with the producer.
A quite long process, which aims to be able to accurately evaluate the quality of the product and the seriousness of the producer, in order to maintain those quality standards on which our company has built its reputation. You will maybe forgive us then if we are sometimes a little bit too slow in responding to some of your requests!