Specifications

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This specification is written early on in the development of a product and is quite general and wide.

For example:

"My product will have an edible casing."

"My product will contain a savoury filling."

"My product will cost under £2."

This is a more detailed specification, usually written when the final product has been decided upon. It may be given to a chef in a test kitchen and then will undergo sensory testing before the decision is made to produce it on a large scale.

For example:

"The pastry will be rolled out to 15cm squares."

"It will contain mushrooms, sweetcorn, cheese sauce and chicken."

"It will cost between £1 and £1.50p."

This is a very detailed specification, which would be given to the food manufacturer so that identical products can be produced on a large scale. This specification may also include sensory characteristics of the product - for instance, "it will be golden brown with a crisp, flaky texture."

For example:

"The pastry will be rolled out to 15cm squares."

"The mushrooms will be cut into 5mm slices."

"The cost will be £1.20p."

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How to design a manufacturing specification...

Here are some ideas of what to include to produce a successful specification...

  • Specific dimensions (with a sketch) - for instance, weight, size, shape.
  • Specific qualities of ingredients - for example, percentage of fat in meat, size of cherries.
  • Names of ingredients with weights and proportions to use - for example, "200g butter, 450g flaked haddock."
  • Specific tolerances - for example, thickness of pastry, viscosity (runniness) of sauce.
  • The size to which ingredients must be cut - for example, the exact shape and size of pieces of fruit and vegetables, the nozzle size for mincing meat, the slicing grade for carrots, the grating size for cheese.
  • Types of cooking methods and cooking temperatures with critical control points.
  • Cooling times and methods.
  • Finishing techniques - for example, "Brush with whole egg glaze before baking", "Fill centre of cake with fresh whipped cream to a thickness of 2cm", "Decorate with six slices of tomato and one teaspoonful of mixed herbs before cooking", "Cover surface of biscuit with white rolled icing to a thickness of 0.5cm."
  • Specific details of packaging requirements - for example, microwavable dish with sealed film covering in crushproof sleeve."
  • Wording for the label, which will provide information for the consumer about ingredients, nutrition, the name of the product, storage and cooking/reheating instructions, shelf life, etc.
  • Sometimes a photograph is used to help a manufacturer to meet that specification. This would normally still need additional written information, but is useful in large-scale catering where a meal is being assembled on a plate from bought components.

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