When clients need help bringing an idea to market, the experts at the University of Georgia Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center (FoodPIC) come to the rescue.

comic book-style sunburst
Comic book style illustration of Jim Gratzek and Emma Moore back to back with their arms crossed on a red shield

With great knowledge comes great food products. 

Established in 2017, FoodPIC helps companies develop new food products and market those products through a robust network of experts both at the university and within the industry in food technology, engineering, food product development, sensory analysis, storage and shelf-life evaluation, consumer testing and marketing. 

Jim Gratzek, who earned his doctorate in food process engineering from UGA’s Department of Food Science and Technology in 1994, returned to UGA to take on the role as FoodPIC director in July 2022 after spending nearly 30 years in the commercial food industry.

Tapping into the research and educational capacity of UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the center works directly with food and marketing enterprises to help launch novel products. 

“We’re like an incubator, a launch pad for these products,” he said. “It’s hard work designing and managing a facility that makes food, so we try to take some of that work out of it for our clients. Our strategy is adding value to food and food commodities that are relevant to the Southeast U.S. and Georgia.”

Gratzek and his Super Market Heroes guide us through the process from start to finish with a (fictional) new product — a healthy hydration beverage providing vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and natural energy.

Somewhere in the skies above Griffin, Georgia —

FoodPIC posse, assemble! In the initiation phase, potential clients contact FoodPIC with a concept, problem or product. After filling out an initiation, which describes their needs, clients work with FoodPIC experts like director Jim Gratzek and food scientist, project manager and CAES alumnus Emma Moore to define their product. It is during this phase that FoodPIC helps clients iron out technical details.

Comic book style panel showing Jim Gratzek looking up at a bat signal in the shape of a bottle
Gratzek and Moore stand in a room with industrial kitchen equipment. A speech bubble from Moore says "Hmm..."

James Gratzek (right), director of UGA's FoodPIC, makes a point while giving a tour of the facilities on the UGA Griffin campus while alumnus Emma Moore listens at left.

James Gratzek (right), director of UGA's FoodPIC, makes a point while giving a tour of the facilities on the UGA Griffin campus while alumnus Emma Moore listens at left.

“It’s a food! It’s a food supplement! It’s a nutrition supplement!”

FoodPIC specialists take all of the information they gathered during the initiation phase to develop a proposal that determines the high-level requirements of the project, including the scope of deliverables and the basic parameters of what the food must do, otherwise known as “the jobs of the food.”

Spiky speech bubble reading "Away, to the lab!"
Comic-style illustration of Emma Moore using a lab machine

Engage the secret weapon: science!

During the discovery phase, FoodPIC scientists work with the client on product development — flavor, consistency, aroma, color, blend of ingredients, packaging, serving size, price point, volume goal — and creating a prototype. Once that is complete, they move on to process development (how do we make it?) and the specifications of food science around the product, including sensory analysis, risk analysis and quality control. Licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, FoodPIC has a strict code of operating procedures for building sanitation and good manufacturing practices. 

Gratzek and Moore display a large machine for packaging powdered food

The Super Market Heroes unveil a powdered food packager in the FoodPIC labs in Griffin, Georgia.

The Super Market Heroes unveil a powdered food packager in the FoodPIC labs in Griffin, Georgia.

Blank food product evaluation form with three categories of three criteria to rank 0-10
Food product evaluation form with the first section filled out, giving Sample A middling results.
Food product evaluation form filled out through the second section, giving Sample B all 10's
Fully filled out food product evaluation form, giving the last sample very low scores.

Off-flavor — my old nemesis!

During concept fulfillment, FoodPIC experts create product specifications, develop the nutrition panel and hold focus groups for sensory testing. The center performs shelf-life studies, keeping the new product in a climate-controlled room at a high temperature to determine how storage will affect attributes such as texture, freshness, sweetness and off-flavor.

Comic-style panel of three people at a table with food product evaluation forms. One of the people pushes their chair back, making an unhappy face with a speech bubble reading "Hurrk!"

Onward! To Market!

Once the technical details are conquered, FoodPIC completes the final design for packaging and the product is ready to launch! Within three months to a year after launch, Gratzek recommends that clients do a market analysis to compare the performance of the product to the business goals they set at the beginning of the process.

Illustration of Jim Gratzek as a superhero next to a bottle of "UGAqua" sports drink