When starting out on finding the right partner to help you develop/launch/or create your new product, some key questions to ask are:
1. What kinds of products do you have experience with, and did you launch them?
If you are trying to make a new product, the Food Scientist should be able to provide examples of like types of products that they commercialized as making products on the bench are not the same as making them in a plant!
2. Who from your office will be working on this, and what role will they have?
Every Food Scientist consulting group is different, and if you are meeting the owner who doesn't actually do any of the project work, your project may be handled by temps vs. an expert.
3. What's an example of a situation that went badly with a client, and what did you do to resolve it?
This one is not a common question from potential clients, but may give great insight to how your scientist works. Each project has ups and downs, and Little Food Lab has a policy of complete transparency, and will share all potential issues and risks to the project. If something isn't working for you, you need to let the consultant know, and the consultant should be happy to receive your feedback!
4. What type of lab space do you have?
Your Food Scientist professional should have the basics: a pH meter, a balance that can go to at least 2 decimal places, space dedicated to storing raw materials, equipment for bench samples, and a clean and sanitary dedicated place to work.
5. What are your rates?
This is a tricky one as you are sort of trying to predict the future of how many hours it will take to make a product that doesn't actually exist yet. Knowing what you want the Food Scientist to provide will help the consultant give you a better estimate. I have procured raw materials, developed Nutrition Facts Panels, developed formulas, costed out formulas, scaled up at plants, commercialized, and supported packaging procurement on some projects (full service), or simply provided bench formulas (no ingredient procurement, specifications, or Nutrition Facts panels) - so each would have a much different cost as they each require much different amounts of time.