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Review of Current Worldwide Microbiology Testing Methods and Markets in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

Presented in 2019 at the 14th Annual PDA Global Conference on Pharmaceutical Microbiology, Bethesda MD

PDA Bethesda 2019

Strategic Consulting, Inc. was pleased to have had a poster presentation at the 14th Annual PDA Conference on Pharmaceutical Microbiology.  The poster presented the results of our work in studying and measuring the volume and market value of worldwide microbiological testing in the pharmaceutical sector.

Strategic Consulting, Inc. collected primary data on the number and types of tests conducted worldwide, using interviews and electronic surveys with key knowledgeable individuals at more than 300 pharmaceutical facilities in North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia (incl. India and China).  The market at the end of 2018 was validated as consisting of a worldwide test volume of 415 million tests and a market value for test materials of $1.64 billion.

It is important to recognize that Strategic Consulting defines the worldwide pharma sector as including approximately 5,400 plants with 25 or more employees. Our research project focused only on these facilities and did not attempt to collect data from smaller facilities.  These facilities were found to conduct an average of approx. 77,000 tests per year, with a very wide range in test volumes with smaller facilities that may collect “thousands” of tests per year to the largest pharma plants that collect more than 1 million tests per year.

Due to the crucial nature of this testing, and the steady growth of the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, the growth of this market has continued steadily since we first started tracking this market in 1993.  The worldwide Pharma Sector has shown steady growth in test volume from 105 million tests in 1993, 206 million tests in 2003, 348 million tests in 2014 to our estimated volume of 415 million tests in 2018.  This growth is expected to continue at a slightly faster growth rate and reach 526 million tests in 2023.

The market value of Industrial Microbiology testing in the Pharma Sector has gained steadily from US$ 365 million in 1993, US$ 995 million in 2008, and now reaching over US$1.640 billion in 2018.  With a slightly decreasing rate of market value growth expected, due to developing competition that will add to pricing pressure, the Pharma Sector is projected to reach an estimated US $2.1 billion in market value by 2023.

What are Processors doing to combat Food Fraud?

What are Processors doing to combat Food Fraud?

Economically Motivated Adulteration (EMA) – otherwise known as Food Fraud – can be committed in many ways, including mislabeling, product substitutions, or product adulteration. There are no shortages of reports of this type of fraud with stories of sugar being added to honey, lower quality vegetable oil being misrepresented as extra virgin olive oil or horse meat being sold as beef being common in the popular press.

It may be tempting to think that because our food supply chain is so large and complex that some of these incidents occur simply through errors. If this were the case, we would often find a more expensive ingredient substituted for a lower quality one – and yet this is rarely found to happen.

In our article in the Oct/Nov issue of Food Safety Magazine, we asked processors what they were doing to combat food fraud.

 

As you can see in the full article, there were varying levels of concern about food fraud throughout different processor types and processors in the US and Canada seemed to be less concerned (or perhaps had better control) than those suppliers and processors outside of the US/Canada.

The processor vertical that reported a different response was Spices and Ingredients where we saw a much higher level of concern than in other food areas. It has been known that this market has had a history with EMA with many cases of substitutions and alterations. And “spices” are not a food type but a broad category with a far larger and more global supply chain than what most other processors deal with. This complexity provides many more “touch points” that are very difficult to track providing ample opportunities for someone tamper with a product.

When we asked about the testing that processors are doing, most reported that they are not testing or doing limited testing with the most common control being to deal only with known and trusted suppliers and make sure that they have Certificates of Analysis (CoA) from each of those suppliers.

Consistent to what we heard from Spices and Ingredient processors about risk, these processors are doing far more testing than other verticals and using more varied types of analytical tests.

Food fraud is not new, and it is not going to be eliminated any time soon. As supply chains get longer, more global and more complex there will be ever more opportunities for food fraud to occur and food companies will have to remain vigilant.

Find out more in the full article – Economically Motivated Adulteration: What Are Processors Doing to Combat Food Fraud? http://bit.ly/34raGxm

FSMA Intentional Adulteration Rule

The first compliance date for FSMA’s Intentional Adulteration Rule occurred in July 2019.  This compliance date applies to the largest facilities – >500 employees – with additional dates for smaller facilities coming in 2020 and 2021.  The FDA has also said that they will not commence with compliance inspections until March 2020 to give processors time to get ready.

In our article in the Aug/Sep Food Safety Magazine, we asked if processors felt they were ready for this new rule and most said they they were.  Greater than 70% of those US and Canadian companies with fewer than 500 employees, and nearly 90% of those with more than 500 employees reported being ready.

As with many of these new FDA rules, the processors said that they believed that they were ready but that they really would not know until they had their first inspection under the rule when they could find out if their interpretations matched – or at least were acceptable to – those of the regulators.

What were they most concerned about?  Most were worried about how broadly they needed to consider risk scenarios and how unlikely does a attack need to be before it no longer needs to be considered in their IA plan?  Do they need to address every scenario that a regulator can dream up?

We’ll find out more about how ready processors are come next year.  In the meantime find out more about what they are saying in our Food Safety Magazine article.  The link is below.

The FSMA Intentional Adulteration Rule Is Here: Are Processors Ready?   http://bit.ly/2HvimFE

The New Face of Sanitation Programs: New Rules, New Challenges

The October – November edition of Food Safety Insights is now available in Food Safety MagazineIn this version, we look at the Sanitation Programs of food processors, how they are changing under FSMA, what tools – new and traditional – are being used and how processors are reacting to the new FSMA FDA inspections.

Food Safety Insights is a cooperative program between the industry experts at Food Safety Magazine and the food safety market experts at Strategic Consulting to bring you the latest market research, insights and trends in food safety, analytical testing, diagnostics, laboratory services, sanitation and related topics in quality and safety testing and assurance in the food and beverage industry.

In each edition of Food Safety Magazine, the Food Safety Insights column will review a market topic in food safety.  Our insights come from primary research conducted each month with food processors and laboratories throughout the United States and around the world and provide you with up-to-date facts and figures not available anywhere else. This unique program will advance your understanding of food safety markets and where the best opportunities are developing.

Strategic Consulting Expands to Meet Needs of Industrial Diagnostics Market

Strategic Consulting, Inc., has added Robert J. Ferguson as Managing Director as it continues to expand to meet the growing demand for market intelligence and business strategy in the industrial diagnostics market.

Strategic Consulting, Inc. (SCI), the leading knowledge resource for business strategy and market intelligence in the industrial diagnostics industry, announced in advance of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Annual Meeting that Robert J. Ferguson has joined the company as Managing Director. Founded in 1996 by President, Tom Weschler, Strategic Consulting focuses on microbiology-based, quality and safety testing in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical, and personal care product industries, and in environmental and industrial process water.

“In our 20-year history, we’ve seen tremendous growth and change in the industrial diagnostics industry, particularly in the food safety sector,” Mr. Weschler said. “With Bob Ferguson’s expertise in all aspects of the market, plus extensive experience in business management, strategy development and international business, SCI will be expanding its services and offering our clients an even deeper skill set and knowledge base.”

Market research is vital to the development of the industrial market, and continues to be in demand. In 2017, we anticipate delivery of new editions of our report on Microbiology Testing in the Global Food Industry as well as the Food Contract Lab Report.

With more than 30 years in industrial and environmental diagnostics and laboratory businesses, Mr. Ferguson has expertise in accelerating growth, international business development, business turnarounds, M&A, and new product development in businesses ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations. Prior to joining SCI, Mr. Ferguson was Worldwide Vice President and General Manager for Becton Dickinson’s (BD) Industrial Microbiology and Clinical Media Business Unit; a $350M global business serving the clinical and industrial diagnostic markets in food safety, pharmaceutical, personal care and medical devices, with customers in more than 100 countries around the world.

Ferguson, Managing Director, Strategic Consulting, SCI

Robert J. Ferguson, Managing Director

“Having worked with Tom and Strategic Consulting for many years, I am well aware of SCI’s reputation as the leading market knowledge and strategy resource for industrial diagnostics, “Ferguson said. “I’m pleased to be joining SCI, and I look forward to contributing to and building on its outstanding work.”

In its 20-year history, SCI has built a reputation as the “go to” source in the industrial diagnostics space, in part through its 19 well-researched market reports, which are widely accepted by leading diagnostic manufacturers and investors as highly credible analyses of the industry. “SCI market reports having been developed through literally thousands of interviews with production companies worldwide in the food, pharmaceuticals and personal care industries,” Mr. Weschler said.

“Market research is vital to the development of the industrial market, and continues to be in demand,” Ferguson said. “In 2017, we anticipate delivery of new editions of our report on Microbiology Testing in the Global Food Industry as well as the Food Contract Lab Report.”

IMMR—4 is currently available online at www.strategic-consult.com, and a new edition of “Global Review of Microbiology Testing in the Industrial Market”(IMMR-5) will follow Food Micro—9 and FCLR—2, Mr. Ferguson said. SCI also will be expanding its capabilities to provide market research projects specific to individual client requirements.

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Strategic Consulting, Inc. (SCI) provides market reports and business consulting on microbiology-based quality and safety testing for food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, environmental water and industrial-process water. With more than 100 combined years of international management in the food safety testing and industrial diagnostics marketplaces, SCI’s principals have proven success in working with venture capital backed start-ups, publicly traded companies, technology acquisitions, and transformation of underachieving companies. For more information on Strategic Consulting and its current market reports, visit www.strategic-consult.com or call +1 443 244 5245.

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Faster, Better, Cheaper… What’s Most Important in a Pathogen Test?

SCI interviewed major food companies and food contract labs to determine what’s most important when choosing a pathogen test method.

For close to 20 years, Strategic Consulting (SCI) has been following the industrial microbiology market, and food safety testing applications in particular. As part of the data gathering for our most recent report, Industrial Microbiology Market Review, SCI interviewed 15 senior managers at major food companies and food contract labs (FCLs) to understand their priorities when choosing a pathogen diagnostic method. The interviews were roughly split between food companies and food contract labs.

SCI identified ten important attributes for evaluating a diagnostic method or instrument, and asked the interviewees to stack rank the top five items most important to them.

pathogen test, diagnostic methodThe three top-ranked choices were the same at both food companies and FCLs, with sensitivity/specificity the most important attribute. Second in importance was the ability of the method to be utilized in a broad range of food matrices. Ranking third was the cost-per-test for diagnostic reagents.

For food companies, time-to-results (TTR) was tied for third in the stack ranking, followed by ease-of-use (EOU)/automation in fifth place. Clearly food companies want quick results but only after they are assured that the pathogen diagnostic they are using provides accurate results and is able to work with a range of food types.

For food contract labs, the cost of the pathogen diagnostic instrument ranks fourth, and TTR is tied with the cost of labor per test for fifth. For FCLs, most of the key attributes in method selection are based on operational considerations, which makes perfect sense given testing is their business.

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Where Has the Growth in Food Safety Testing Gone?

Recent earnings reports from large industrial diagnostic companies in the food safety sector indicate a slowing of growth in this typically robust market. What’s going on? Has growth in the food safety testing market peaked, paused with the economic downturn, or just moved elsewhere?

Strategic Consulting (SCI) has just released our 19th market research report on the industrial microbiology market. Industrial Microbiology Market Review: Global Review of Microbiology Testing in the Industrial Market (IMMR-4) examines the industrial diagnostics market, which includes the food, beverage, pharmaceutical, personal care products, environmental water and industrial process sectors. You can read more about IMMR-4 here.

In addition to a detailed analysis by test volume, market value, organisms tested and methods used, IMMR-4 also provides a thorough discussion of market trends, drivers, and regulatory and topical issues specific to each sector. IMMR-4 also includes a business review of competition, consolidation and key success factors, and profiles 20 leading test manufacturers serving the industrial diagnostics market.

Extensive Primary Research in the Industrial Market

industrial market, primary research, strategic consultingIMMR-4 is based on extensive primary research into all aspects of the industrial microbiology market, including detailed interviews with producers, regulators and diagnostics competitors. SCI conducted more than 650 interviews in 23 countries around the world, with close to one-third of those interviews conducted in Asia (China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam) due to the region’s economic importance, in both production and consumption, in the industrial market sectors.

Interview data and other information were analyzed using a combined bottom-up and top-down approach. For example, overall market estimates were derived from the test volume numbers given by production companies, and then triangulated with other information gathered through SCI interviews and pubic information research.

In hundreds of interviews over the last two years, when QA/QC managers in production plants were asked about test volume growth, the general response was “yes, growth”. The drivers for test volume growth, such as new regulations and ongoing customer demand, are not consistent across all geographies however. North American and Asian/ROW plants report growth in test volumes, while test volume in European facilities remain flat. Although somewhat diminished, growth in micro test volumes continues even in the face of world economic issues.

In fact, the total market for industrial microbiology tests is projected to increase 25.7% over the next five years, from 2.0 billion tests in 2014 to 2.5 billion tests in 2019. This represents a 4.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in test volumes, which is slower than over the past 20 years. In other words, testing is increasing but not as robustly. With many production companies implementing process improvements over the last decade, growth in test volume may be tied to increased consumption alone going forward.

What’s Up with Recent Financial Reports from Diagnostics Companies?

Given the test volumes and projected growth reported by food production companies, I was a bit surprised by the financial reports of some key companies in the food safety testing market. Roka Bioscience had no new sales of its Atlas System last quarter. Neogen reported that their food safety business grew only marginally (3%) for the current quarter. And although we can’t isolate the food safety business of industry giant bioMérieux, overall their industrial business was flat for the first nine months of the year.

With leading businesses showing little or no growth in the sizeable food safety testing market, are we seeing a market that has become overcrowded, with little or no growth remaining? Based on financial reports, it’s hard to know specifically where growth remains and where things are flat or declining, as these large companies do not report on a geographic or product basis.

Is it time to recalibrate expectations for the traditionally robust food safety testing market? Has the food safety diagnostics business reached its peak in spite of major drivers such as continued media coverage of foodborne outbreaks, ongoing implementation of FSMA, industry-wide efforts such as the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), and the increased consumption of food that is sourced from all over the world?

Perhaps it’s time to recalibrate expectations for the traditionally robust food safety testing market.

I’m going to venture an uncharacteristic answer and say “perhaps”. Perhaps the increased focus on industry testing over the last ten years means that for the most part, major food producers have their testing programs (and thus volumes) in place. Perhaps the five-year economic malaise that has impacted so many countries and businesses is now affecting the until now unmatched growth engine of food safety diagnostics? Or perhaps it is all of the above.

Food Contract Labs Taking Market Share

One other possibility comes out of SCI’s recent review of a particular segment of the market, contract test labs. Over the past few years, there has been a shift in where analysis is performed with some sectors sending a greater percentage of samples outside to corporate facilities or contract testing labs. The Food Sector, driven by lab accreditation requirements among other factors, is utilizing contract labs more heavily in certain geographies.

Is competition for diagnostic manufacturers coming from businesses that had previously been among their best customers? Eurofins reported 15% growth in revenues for the first nine months of 2014. As food contract labs grow their market share in food safety testing, they are able to increase their influence over the test methods and products in use, and their purchase patterns can be different from food plant labs.

Stay tuned. As 2015 approaches, we’ll continue to watch, report and comment, here and on Linked In and Twitter.

And in the meantime, let us know what you think. Are the days of double-digit growth in food safety testing a thing of the past?

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Insight into the $6.5 Billion Global Industrial Microbiology Market

New research from Strategic Consulting, Inc. details microbiology testing conducted by companies around the world to ensure the quality and safety of products in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and personal care markets, and in environmental water and industrial processes.

Strategic Consulting, Inc., the leading information resource for industrial diagnostics companies, has published a comprehensive new market report on microbiology testing in the global industrial market. Industrial Microbiology Market Review, Fourth Edition: Global Review of Microbiology Testing in the Industrial Market” (IMMR—4) tracks and compares past, current and future (projected) microbiology test volumes, market values and test methods for six sectors of the industrial market (Food, Beverage, Pharmaceutical, Personal Care Products, Environmental Water and Industrial Processes) in North America, Europe, Asia and the rest of the world (ROW).

industrial microbiology, market research, safety, quality

The industrial microbiology market is large and growing, the second largest diagnostics market after clinical diagnostics in test volume and market value. More than 90,000 industrial plants worldwide conduct close to 2 billion tests each year, which represents a market value of $6.5 billion. Because the demand for consumer products is growing as the world’s population grows, increases in product quality and safety testing appear to continue undaunted by current worldwide economic problems.

The global industrial market is complex, however, with varying testing requirements and regulations resulting in variations in growth across market sectors and geographies. According to Tom Weschler, president of Strategic Consulting, the rate of growth in the broader market is slowing when compared to previous years. “Numerous drivers for industrial testing, such as public and regulatory concern about product safety, continue to offer pockets of opportunity, but not in all areas. One example is rapid microbiology methods, which have seen significant adoption in certain sectors and geographies, and little or no uptake in others,” Weschler said.

Numerous drivers for industrial testing, such as public and regulatory concern about product safety, continue to offer pockets of opportunity, but not in all areas.

Industrial Microbiology Market Review (IMMR-4) provides detailed analysis and insights into the complexities of this market, including:

  • Past, current and projected test volumes and market values, with breakdowns by market sector, geographic regions, test methods and organisms tested.
  • In-depth views of the six market sectors, including market trends and drivers within each sector.
  • Test methods and technologies, from “traditional” to newer, rapid methods such as immunoassay and molecular methods.
  • Organisms of interest in “routine” microbiology testing including TVO, Coliform/E. coli and Yeast/Mold, as well as testing for specific pathogens.
  • Detailed business reviews, including profiles of 20 leading diagnostic companies such as bioMérieux, Neogen and Merck Millipore.

For many diagnostic companies, industrial microbiology is one piece of a larger diagnostics portfolio. As a result, market metrics can be difficult to ascertain. IMMR-4 fills this gap, and provides more than 200 pages of detailed discussion and 150 charts and diagrams. Importantly, these data and insights are based on extensive primary research into all aspects of the industrial microbiology market, including:

  • Detailed interviews with 650 production plants conducted in 23 countries in North America, Europe and Asia/ROW
  • 200 interviews in six countries of Asia (China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand)
  • Discussions with key opinion leaders, regulators and senior management at contract testing labs and diagnostic companies.

IMMR-4 offers five additional appendices with further detail on Organisms and Methods, the Food, Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Product sectors, and a completely new Review of Microbial Identification practices and technologies in the industrial market.

For more information about Industrial Microbiology Market Review, Fourth Edition: Global Review of Microbiology Testing in the Industrial Market(IMMR—4) download a prospectus or contact Strategic Consulting.

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High False Negative Rates For Pathogen Food Safety Testing

Even in best case scenarios, food safety testing labs are still averaging greater than 6% FALSE NEGATIVES on pathogen testing. Is this acceptable?

Continuing on the theme of pathogen diagnostics and observations from the recent IAFP meeting in Indianapolis, this blog looks at proficiency testing (PT) for pathogen analysis, and the recent finding by the the American Proficiency Institute (API) of a 6.6% false-negative rate on food safety PT samples (14-year average for the 1999-2012 period).

While at IAFP I met with Heather Jordan, who directs food PT programs at the American Proficiency Institute. API proficiency testing programs are used at many food labs in conjunction with lab accreditation programs. Proficiency testing is done at food plant labs (FPLs) and corporate labs, as well as at food contract testing labs (FCLs) as a way to demonstrate quality results in their food micro and chemistry testing.

More Proficiency Tests But Less Proficiency?

In fact, the use of PTs is increasing in food labs, which is probably tied in part to the push for lab accreditation by FSMA and non-government groups like GFSI.

Yet it seems to me that the current use of PTs doesn’t go far enough to enable an FPL or FCL to demonstrate overall laboratory competency, and gain or maintain accreditation (ISO 17025).

In most labs, PTs are done just a few times a year. And really, they test the competency of the lab technician and protocols used in analyzing the PT samples. They are not a holistic measure of the lab and its ability to consistently generate quality results on every test run by every operator in the lab.

In a previous life I ran a group of environmental testing labs, which also are required to run PT samples during the year. From this experience, I know that lab personnel are aware that PTs are in-house: The sample-receiving group logs them in, and then alerts management. As a result, the best operators usually are assigned to run the PTs. This kid-glove treatment is not representative of day-to-day practices and processes. If we really want to validate and accredit the proficiency of an entire lab, shouldn’t every operator be tested on all protocols in use?

Plus, if labs know when they are running PT samples, and likely have their best operators running them, shouldn’t there be few, if any, false-negative or false-positive results?

Surprisingly, that’s not what the API research found…

API Study: “Performance Accuracy for Food Pathogens Remains Problematic”

In a retrospective study, “Pathogen Detection in Food Microbiology Laboratories: An Analysis of Proficiency Test Performance,” API analyzed the results from 39,500 food proficiency tests conducted between 1999 and 2012 to see how U.S. labs are doing in detecting or ruling out contamination of four common food pathogens.

Over the 14-year period, “False negative results ranged from 3.3% to 14.0% for E. coli O157:H7; 1.9% to 10.6% for Salmonella spp; 3.4% to 11.0% for L. monocytogenes; and 0% to 19.8% for Campylobacter spp.” Most concerning is that while both false positive and false negative rates were down in the last year of the study, the cumulative false negative rate for the 14-year period was 6.6%.

As we know, false positive results (in which a sample that does not contain pathogens is incorrectly shown as positive) are a nuisance. But false negative test results—which fail to detect true pathogenic organisms in the sample—are not unacceptable.

API, false negative, proficiency test, pathogen

The cumulative average false positive rate was 3.1%, less than half of the false negative rate for the same period.

The objective of the study—and, I would think, of proficiency testing in general—is to demonstrate improvement in lab performance year over year. The results of the API report concluded to the contrary, however: “Performance accuracy for food pathogens remains problematic with the recent cumulative trend showing a slight decrease for false positive and false negative results.”

Performance accuracy for food pathogens remains problematic with the recent cumulative trend showing a slight decrease for false positive and false negative results.

Clearly if false negatives happen in proficiency programs, they happen in the course of regular testing at food labs. I’m told that many FCLs and FPLs rely on other parts of their QA systems to make sure testing is being conducted properly. Even so, the documentation of ongoing and unacceptably high false negative rates in PT testing is a big concern for everyone.

It also points to a number of follow-on questions:

  • Would the false negative and false positive results be even higher if every technician, rather than the best operator, performed the analysis?
  • PT samples are created in only a couple of sample matrices. Would results be even worse if performed on the myriad of sample matrices present in the food industry?
  • What are the performance results among all of the pathogen methods available? Are some methods better than others when measured in real world conditions? Do the more complex protocols of some pathogen diagnostic systems result in poorer PT performance results?
  • Would PT results and, even more important, lab proficiency improve if the frequency of PTs increased, and were required of every technician involved with real food samples?
  • How can proficiency testing be used to isolate problem areas, whether in the pathogen diagnostic method or the competency of lab operators and processes?
  • Is the performance data different between food contract labs and food plant labs? And are all FCLs are equal, or are some more able to deliver quality results?

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Pathogen Diagnostic Platforms and the Jam Study

The explosion in the number of food safety pathogen diagnostic systems is confusing the customer and hindering change.

What a great IAFP (International Association for Food Protection) Annual Meeting last week in Indianapolis! It was bigger and better than ever.

A couple of things made a huge impression on me:

There were more than 25 pathogen diagnostic platforms on the exhibit floor.

While not an official accounting, someone who was counting as they walked the floor told me they quit at 30. This represents a dramatic increase from even five to ten years ago. Maybe all of these companies are reading SCI’s market reports extolling the size and growth of the pathogen testing market.

pathogen diagnostic, food safety testing

Too many choices and too much risk are hindering change.

On the IAFP exhibit floor, I had a conversation with a long time contact who is director of quality at a national food company. We talked about the proliferation of pathogen diagnostic choices and how it is inhibiting rather than fostering change. He sees no significant benefit in switching from his current platform, which not only works well but is well established in his plants. Changing to save $.50 or trim a few hours of production time is not worth it to him.

He was frank in admitting that he is afraid of the risks involved in change, and overwhelmed by the choices. In essence, he said: Who knows, in six months something newer and better might come along and I will have wasted time, effort and money in switching. Plus my boss will be upset with the money spent on the instrument.

Has the pathogen testing market become like the 24-flavor jam table?

There is a classic study on choice known as the jam study. In 2000, Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper published “When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?” which examined the consequences of having limited versus extensive choices. The research involved a field experiment in an upscale grocery store in which customers encountered either a table with a limited choice of six Wilkin & Sons jams or a table with an extensive choice of 24 jams from the same company. Everyone who approached the display table was invited to taste as many jams as they liked, and was given a $1 off coupon to purchase a Wilkin & Sons jam.

The key finding was that the 24-flavor table attracted more attention yet it resulted in fewer buyers: Just 3% of people who stopped at the 24-flavor table went on to buy jam, while 30% of shoppers who visited the 6-flavor table left the store with jam in hand. And while it seems logical that people who had more options would sample more flavors, that was not the case. People able to sample from 24 jams tasted an average of 1.50, while those who could chose from six sampled an average of 1.38 jams.

Has the pathogen testing market become like the 24-flavor jam table? Are there just too many choices without significant differentiation, and is that causing hesitation to change?

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