R&D in Food and Beverage Industry: Make Your Cake and Eat it Too!

One of the most overlooked (and fascinating) industries that should be taking advantage of the Research & Development tax credit is food and beverage. Whether it’s a manufacturer of finished food products, an ingredient or flavor developer, or even brewing and distilling, there is usually a lot of interesting research and development. 

What Is the R&D Tax Credit?

The Research & Development tax credit (often called the R&D Credit) can be a powerful way to help bring back some of the investment in the form of a dollar-for-dollar tax credit. The R&D credit does a great job of rewarding the entire footprint of certain product and process development activities within a company. 

The footprint includes (but is not limited to) the people and supplies to develop the product or process. It extends to testing, quality, regulatory compliance, and direct supervisory activities. 

When Congress created the R&D Credit, the goal was to reward investment in both new and improved products along with new and improved processes. Nearly any commercial efforts in the food and beverage industry will involve at least one of the following:

  • Initial concept development of a new product
  • New manufacturing methods
  • Line extensions
  • Quality improvements
  • Changes in regulatory standards

While Internal Revenue Code Section 41 – Credit for Increasing Research Activities guidelines specifically excludes “aesthetics” including projects relating “to style, taste, cosmetic, or seasonal design factors;” typically, technical  R&D is required to meet the chemistry, materials science, and engineering needs of the project.

Once the food or beverage profile or specification is created, the work to develop a commercial product is highly technical. The science and engineering involved with scale-up and mass production are just as technical as any industrial application. 

Opportunities for R&D Tax Credits

Opportunities in the food and beverage industry are not limited to the initial product creation and scale-up. Here are some of the other elements that can aware an R&D credit:

Additional Development Work

Development work related to new ingredients such as alternative sweeteners, salt reduction, allergen management and protocols, CBD, and other functional ingredients and dietary restrictions like vegan and keto are also good indicators of potentially eligible investments.

FSMA Compliance

Production improvements to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) also potentially generate R&D tax credits. Efforts related to these activities are required by companies of all types, from start-ups to mature producers.  Even line extensions may be eligible. Any product modification that adds steps to the production process can trigger a qualified research project.

Obtaining Certification

National and global certifications allow the food and beverage industry to leverage the R&D credit. Creating, developing, and modifying products to meet ever-changing requirements challenges manufacturers. Kosher, Halal, organic, sustainable, non-GMO, and other dietary specifications present further challenges on top of food safety concerns.

Changes in Packaging and Distribution

Packaging and distribution projects can step into the limelight as an area for R&D credit opportunities. Adding new and improved packaging capability and capacity, like canning and bottling for a brewery, automating manual packaging processes, and technology implementation to improve cold-chain management can all be great opportunities to find qualified research expenses.

Ingredient Traceability

Traceability of ingredients is another challenge faced by the increasingly global food and beverage industry. Records intended to track the entire ingredient supply chain require high-tech methods for data management and processing. The traceability data aids in recalls and contamination avoidance, along with providing a chain of information for every batch made by each chain link. 

However, to comply with the resulting increased data requirements, many companies must turn to new software solutions for managing this information. Investing in and integrating these unique data solutions into existing systems involves substantial technology investment.

Claiming Your Company’s Deserved Tax Credit

The food and beverage industry offers many opportunities to recapture investment through the R&D tax credit. We are here to provide direction and can offer a plan to allow you to stake a claim to your share of the credits available. The R&D tax credit process, while complex, can be navigated efficiently and effectively with the right help. As we said in the title, we want you to be able to make your cake and eat it too. Contact us to help claim your tax credit.