R&D team: behind the scenes

Do you want to customise one of our products for your restaurant? Or add a completely new product to your range? Read more about our world of vegetarian and vegan products. Discover the possibilities for adjusting the flavours and textures completely to your liking. We’d love to hear your ideas!

Ralf de Meij Productontwikkelaar Schouten

Day to day variety

Ralf de Meij has been working as a Product Developer at Schouten since May 2017. “The majority of my time is spent developing new recipes that meet customer needs, and then scaling these up from test kitchen recipes to production recipes. Another important part of my work is maintaining and improving our current recipe database.”

“Due to the varied nature of my work, my schedule can change from one day to the next. Today I started the day with a meeting, then I spend 2 hours in the kitchen testing a new concept. After that, I spend an hour speaking with our suppliers and processing information regarding raw materials. I returned to the kitchen for 2 hours this afternoon, and finished the day by modeling our products’ food safety. While my schedule does vary, it’s always approximately 50% kitchen work and 50% related administrative tasks.” These administrative tasks include, for example, maintaining the recipe database. When changes are made, however minor, it’s very important that this is accurately recorded.

The test kitchen

“Working in the test kitchen is fun because you’re the first to see new developments and you have the opportunity to improve customer satisfaction. There’s always a positive atmosphere in our test kitchen, with lots of laughter. It’s also nice to see something you came up with rolled out in large quantities for the first time.”

Improving the current vegetarian range

Improving our current vegetarian range is just as important as developing new products. Ralf: “We’re always on the lookout for new ingredients. Innovative raw materials allow us to create something new that we couldn’t produce before. We also try out substitute ingredients to improve our products and make them healthier. There are usually multiple recipes undergoing testing in the kitchen. For example, replacing ingredients one-to-one. Sometimes this isn’t possible, so we opt to continue with the current recipe and perhaps adjust proportions instead.”

Developing new and innovative vegetarian and vegan products

As mentioned, we are also working on the development of new vegan and vegetarian products. This can be, for example, based on a specific request from a customer. The sales department fills in a project briefing with information from the customer, which contains the customer’s product requirements. Product requirements can be, for example, that a product must mix well in a sauce, or that the taste must be preserved in a sandwich with, for example, onion, lettuce and (possibly vegan) mayonnaise. But requirements such as vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, rich in protein or certain directions with regards to taste are also included in this project briefing.

Ralf: “Before we begin working on a customer’s request, the R&D team looks at whether it is technically feasible.” If we determine a project to be feasible and interesting, a project plan is drawn up and shared with the customer. This means the customer knows what to expect and when, and they can arrange to be present for taste tests, ensuring the shortest possible lead time. The R&D team then start work in the test kitchen. During the development of a new product, they often communicate directly with the customer’s own R&D department.

Test production

Ralf, discussing the product development process: “When we and our customer are satisfied with a newly-developed product and the recipe has been agreed upon, we schedule the first test production. This involves scaling up from the test kitchen to factory proportions.”

Ralf, discussing the product development process: “When we and our customer are satisfied with a newly-developed product and the recipe has been agreed upon, we schedule the first test production. This involves scaling up from the test kitchen to factory proportions.”

However, a number of things must happen before test production can begin:

  • A new recipe must be created in Schouten’s product database
  • A recipe specification must be entered into the system
  • Raw materials must be ordered
  • The recipe must be shared with the production location, and
  • Instructions must be laid out for the production site

The R&D team is always present for the test production to ensure the product leaving the factory matches what was developed in the kitchen. After this, R&D is also responsible for ensuring that the first production meets the same standards as the test production. Following the first production, R&D transfers responsibility to the quality and order department. The sales department also maintains contact with the relevant customer.

The latest trends & developments

To stay on top of the latest trends and developments, Schouten’s R&D team are encouraged to attend trade fairs and attend professional courses. Schouten also maintains a wide network of (potential) suppliers who keep the R&D department informed regarding the latest ingredients. This, plus a focus on reading professional literature, ensures our team stays up-to-date with the latest ingredients and techniques.

Relevant news is always shared within the R&D team. Everyone stays involved and maintains an interest in what’s happening in the market. The team also holds regular meetings with the marketing department to discuss the latest trends as well as trade fairs such as HoReCaVa.

Regular tastings with R&D and the sales and marketing departments ensure we are always aware of what’s currently on the market as well as any existing opportunities

Current demand

Ralf: “At the moment we see that there is a large demand for vegan products. This is because of the one-size-fits-all idea that this way you also make the product suitable for vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians. But we are also seeing an increasing demand for products that are easy to use and can serve as a 1-to-1 replacement for a meat hamburger, for example. On the other hand, there’s also a high demand for products that do not resemble meat at all. So we’re now very busy working with beans and vegetables, when previously we were often using soy proteins.”

I hope our customers see Schouten as a company that knows what it’s doing and what its people are working on.”

Ralf de Meij – Product developer Schouten

Your ideas on products and flavors

Are you relatively new to plant-based, vegetarian or vegan products? Let us introduce you to a new world in terms of flavor and texture by showing you some of our vegetarian and vegan concepts. Our products are designed to impress, flavorsome and made of the best ingredients. We’d like to hear your ideas on products and flavors. Remember: all products can be tailored to fit your needs. Reach out or fill in the contact form below.

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      Our experts

      Arjaan van der Giessen - Commercial Director
      Arjaan van der Giessen
      Commercial Director
      Peter Schouten - General Director
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