What does the production of a new Queal product look like?

The READY case.

May 20th 2019

In December 2018 we’ve launched our “oatmeal the Queal way”, namely Queal READY. A product that’s different from what we’ve had previously, thus needed quite a bit of research and development. In this blog, we’d like to tell you about that process step by step.

Something different than shakes and bars.

Somewhere in the year of 2017, we decided we wanted to add another product to the Queal family. Partly because we noticed some people’s reticence towards drinkable meals but also because we wanted to offer the already-customers an evenly nutritious but “chewable” meal. We wanted this new product to be something innovative, a super easy but still recognizable and accessible meal, but also one that would be nutritionally complete. Of course.

Behind the scenes, we were also preparing our rebranding and renaming process. READY, STEADY, GO, FLOW was our new way to define our product categories and at the same time, it indicates that our products prepare you to get through your day. We had already introduced GO, were about to introduce FLOW and a new overall design was ready to be implemented. STEADY was going to represent our flagship product and READY should become the category in which we would surpass ourselves in the field of complete food experience.

Our desk and field research.

But then, what kind of product did READY need to be? From a previous research phase, we already knew a so-called RTD (a pre-mixed “ready-to-drink” version of our shake powders) wouldn't be achievable because of the weight and thus the high shipment-prices. Also, it was hard to find a production facilitator that suited our wishes considering order quantities. READY needed to be a dry product, that could easily be turned into a nutritionally complete meal.

So we’ve started to look around for inspiration, see what food trends were emerging and how other companies acted upon them. We’ve gathered as many insights as possible and then suddenly saw the light: what about an oatmeal dish? Like what you eat for breakfast but then nutritionally complete and as ready as can be.

The technical part of our research.

We looked into the kind of instant oatmeals already available, bought a lot of those cups and started tasting them. We knew from the start that none of these products were what READY would become, as they weren’t nutritionally complete, but just wanted to know what kind of flavours, preparations and packagings were available so far. With these findings, we set up a briefing for our food scientist, who then started creating samples of instant oatmeal with added proteins, fats and - of course - our vitamin- and mineral mix.

The test production.

With the recipes of our food scientist, our production location started a test run and found mixing something like what READY would become was possible.

All of the first samples came our way so that we could try and taste the complete instant oatmeals. Although our food scientist gave us some initial instructions for preparation, those were just a wild first guess. Turned that because of the combination of oat flakes and oat flour, and the added proteins, our version of instant oatmeal needed A LOT more water than the ones we found in stores. And that in terms of overall mouthfeel and satiation, we definitely created a different product too.

Because we didn't really know how the plant-based proteins would turn out when prepared hot, we tested variations with whey protein as well. Turned out that it didn't make a great difference in flavour as well as texture. So we decided to go for plant-based proteins in READY, so that it would be an extra option to choose from for vegans too.

The beta-test period.

As we highly value the opinions of our amazing Quealers and wanted to involve them in the actual part of developing this new product, we decided to send out samples of our beta recipe so far. By claiming a sample on our website and ordering in a certain period of time, 200 beta-tester received a pouch of our Instant Oats as they were back then, in the berry flavour. Along with some various instructions for preparation and a Google sheet in which they could enter their points of feedback.

Our packaging search.

Around the same time, our search for READY packaging began. We knew from the beginning that this product should come in a single serve packaging because it needed to be a quick and almost-ready nutritionally complete meal. Along the way, though, we figured that selling it in bulk packagings would work out as well. Also, this was a logical step considering the environmental and economic benefits of bulk packaging.

For the single serve cups, the most important factors were that they could hold hot water/still be comfortable to hold and they were big enough for our serving sizes. The instant oatmeal pots we found before all held 40 to 60 grams so weren't that suitable for our meal product.

After testing a lot of different samples we decided to go for a cup made of cardboard, with a PE coating on the inside.

Final tweaking.

In the meantime, we’ve gathered all the feedback from our beta-testers and figured out what we needed to improve and what they thought were the “nice-to-haves”. For the final tweakings of our READY Berry Good 1.0 recipe, we decided to make the flavour a little more intense and to add more freeze-dried berries. Also, we figured the colour needed a bit more intensity so we added strawberry and beetroot powder to the recipe. Then, last but not least, we set our recommended amount of liquid that needs to be added to 200ml, as most beta-testers voted for that.

The pre-order period.

With our READY Berry Good 1.0 recipe set, we’ve opened the pre-orders. Here, we’ve announced the name and features of this new complete instant oat meal (as it’s a true meal) and gave complete food enthusiasts the opportunity to “back” READY by ordering it already with great discounts.

The pre-order period lasted 3 weeks and included two to-be-unlocked goals. The first was to launch with not one but two flavours. As, behind the scenes, we’ve also made sure that the flavour of Carrot Break was optimized. This flavour unlocked after 12 days. The second goal would unlock at 10000 meals sold, at this point every one of the backers would receive an extra free single serve cup. Unfortunately, that one wasn't unlocked.

The Ready Ride, our offline launch.

After the pre-order period ended, we started the production of READY Berry Good & READY Carrot Break and made sure every one of the amazing backers received the nice and hot oat meals they’ve been waiting for.

In the meantime, we worked on how we wanted the real launch of READY to be. As our pre-order launch only happened online, we figured we wanted to organize a real, offline event for this.

Here in the city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, it’s possible to rent some of the old-fashioned trams, which happened to be exactly the READY yellow-ish colour. So to let people enjoy the ease and quickness of READY real time, even while travelling from A to B in the meantime, we thought it would be cool to rent one and organize the Ready Ride.

The Ready Ride happened on the 20th of December, very early in the morning. An event that was much fun, and one that the people of Rotterdam will definitely remember.

READY is ready!

Right after finishing the Ready Ride, at the very same day, everything was just ready (pun intended). The single serve cups and big bulk packagings arrived at our warehouse and webshop-related, all the work was finished too. Ready was ready, yes!

Check out our READY oat meal.