In a major move for the food industry, the UK’s second largest grocer Sainsbury’s will become the first company in the world to develop food products on the internet.

This means that customers will be able to pick up new products from the shelves much sooner than before, as it is expected to reduce the time taken to develop ranges, such as Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference, by as much as a third. Currently, creating a new range takes up to one year.

Later this month, the first products to be developed in this trial will be beer, ready meals and skincare products, which should reach the shelves of the supermarket chain months sooner than if they were developed on paper.

The development package, called ProductVine, will be hosted by GlobalNetXchange the business-to-business e-commerce exchange of which Sainsbury’s was a founder member.

Peter Morrison, Sainsbury’s Innovation and Inspiration Manager said: “This does not replace cooking and taste tests, but in doing away with paperwork and cutting out inefficiencies we will have more time to find new products and be first to put them on our shelves.

“This fits with Sainsbury’s ‘first for food’ strategy, our focus on quality and innovation, and our aim to work in a faster and simpler way in partnership with our suppliers.”

Developing a product is a complex process involving chefs, a concept developer, manufacturers, buyers, technologists, nutritionists, marketeers, a design studio, artwork and reproductive houses, product safety and legal experts. With so many people involved in the process it can be difficult to ensure the right information is sent to the right person at the right time. Using this system all parties can access the data on line as needed e.g. a technologist on a supplier visit in South America can log on and approve packaging details on line keeping the project on time.

The benefit of using a secure website means that everybody working on the project, no matter where they are in the world, is using the same version of information at any point in time. The package has automatic checks built-in, so for example if an ingredient was changed by the chef an e-mail would be sent to the packaging designer alerting them to alter the packaging too. This will reduce mistakes that slow down the launch of products.

Last year Sainsbury’s developed from scratch or improved the recipes of 2,750 new products, including the launch of 3 large new food ranges called Taste The Difference, Blue Parrot Café and Sainsbury’s Italian range.