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Q & A: Cataloging Taste And Health

Innovadex has developed a comprehensive, searchable database of ingredients, simplifying the product development process.

As consumers continue to look for a wider variety of food items with varying health benefits and unique tastes, food manufacturers must seek out a growing number of ingredients and food additives to meet these demands. Innovadex has developed a comprehensive, searchable database of ingredients, simplifying the product development process. Food Manufacturing spoke with Bruce Ianni, the company's founder and CEO, about the database.

Q: How did Innovadex get its start? What services does it provide?

A: Innovadex is over ten years old, and we give product developers access to the critical, technical product information they need on a daily basis to formulate new and innovative food products for the marketplace. We provide them with unique access to over 325 of the food industry’s largest ingredients suppliers in a single log-in location. The information that they’re accessing is typically located behind firewalls in user name- and password-protected pages, which are locations entirely off-limits to the traditional search engines like Yahoo!, Google and Bing. So, we -- with permission of each of the 325+ ingredients suppliers -- provide access to the information that food scientists need on a daily basis.

What the product developers used to have to rely on and wait for people to send to them, they can now access instantly. And that includes technical data sheets and material safety data sheets, Kosher and Halal certification, organic certification, GMO statements, the gamut of technical product information that food scientists need.

Q: Who pays for the service? Do ingredient companies pay to be listed, or do food manufacturers and food scientists pay for access?

A: Innovadex can be accessed free of charge. The ingredients companies pay to have their information listed in the search engine.

Q: What’s the process for adding new ingredients to your list?

A: To start out with, we have over 325 of the largest ingredients suppliers in the industry listed in our database. And they have provided over 25,000 technical documents for over 5,000 products. And the process by which we get more suppliers happens three ways. 1) Food scientists will recommend to suppliers that they participate in Innovadex, and that’s one of the most common ways. 2) The food and ingredients suppliers will hear about Innovadex, and they’ll contact us about being included in the system. 3) We contact ingredients suppliers as well and let them know about this service and this tool for food scientists.

Q: How long has it taken you to amass this list, and how do you keep it current?

A: It’s taken us five years to amass this list, and we tie our search engine into the document databases of these 325+ ingredients suppliers so that whenever they update their information in their own internal database, it’s automatically updated in Innovadex. That way, ingredients suppliers only have one database to worry about. They don’t have to worry about keeping separate databases updated.

Q: What has been the response to the search engine among food manufacturers and food scientists?

A: The comment that we heard over and over again when we launched at the food show was, “This is brilliant, and it’s about time that somebody did this.” But it was difficult and it took a lot of time to develop a special relationship with each ingredient supplier to inform them about what we were doing. It took some time to do that, but we’ve gotten off to a great start and had a great introduction at IFT ’10 with a lot of excitement from food companies.

Q: Are there other companies out there doing something like this?

A: We are unique in that we’re the world’s largest technical product information search engine in the food and beverage industry. We’re the only one providing access to a constantly updated technical database.

Q: What sort of information do you provide besides the listing of ingredients?

A: There is the ability for food scientists to look up ingredients by “benefits and claims.” If a food scientist was looking to enrich their product with probiotics, they can do that. If they want to make a food product that improves cognitive ability, they can look up ingredients that imbue those characteristics. The “benefits/claims” search is really sensational.

Q: What was the impetus behind the name-change from Chemidex to Innovadex?

A: The change really represents our expansion beyond the chemical industry. We have a growing community of users that stretches far beyond the chemical sectors in which we had participated in the past. We’re really at the beginning of the product innovation and product discovery phase.

Q: What is the most unique service provided by the Innovadex database?

A: Innovadex is a one-stop single source that allows food scientists to access the deep technical information that they need and, most importantly, order samples from a myriad of suppliers with a single click. I think that’s one of the most unique aspects of our service -- the ability to quickly and easily order samples from a variety of suppliers.

Interview by Krystal Gabert, Editor