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FINALLY, food innovation seems to be gaining some traction among leading suppliers to the QSR and Fast Casual Dining restaurant segments — and 2013 is the year that two multibillion dollar manufacturers plan to start their food innovation process.

Visionary Company A: Ground Level Up

One company is a commodity-focused company that sees the need to expand their new product innovation product offering to maintain their leadership position in the QSR and Fast Casual dining segments. Their interest in new product innovation was spurred on by a culinary chef who recently graduated from one of the top culinary schools in the world. This chef intuitively knew that their company had a lot more to offer its customers if they could just apply some true innovation principles to the new product development process. Step 1 for this visionary chef was a call to me to align her vision with innovation principles that successful companies outside the food industry have used — like Apple. Step 2 involved meetings with the R&D, Technology and Marketing departments to share the vision and gain companywide support. And Step 3 has been the initiation of a structured new product innovation process within this leading foodservice supplier. And guess what; it will be very difficult for this supplier's competitors to keep pace with the technology leadership of this company.

Visionary Company B: Executive Level Down

In the second company, I recently met with a visionary President/CEO of a multibillion dollar food company who attended a speech on new product innovation of a book used in my food innovation workshop — Vijay Govindara and Chris Trimble, who wrote The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge. For him, Step 1 was to grasp and understand the vision for innovation, by attending a speech on innovation principles. Step 2 was to read the critically acclaimed book on innovation to understand the details of the food innovation principles. Step 3 involved his communication to his executive team that he was starting an internal innovation team — reporting to himself! (A basic tenant of the innovation process). Step 4 was the selection of additional people (internally and externally) to round out his company's innovation team. And guess what, this CEO encountered internal dissent for the process. Internal dissent is to be expected because food innovation is change, and many people resist change. But this entrepreneurial executive knew the innovation process steps, and had the guts to stay the course. I guarantee you will see this company become a prominent supplier in the next couple years.

QSR and Fast Casual Restaurant Innovation Adaptors

The good news is that QSR and Fast Casual dining restaurant suppliers are starting to implement and embrace the principles and processes of new product innovation. The bad news is that leading restaurant chains have shown no evidence of innovation despite multimillion dollar R&D budgets and corporate headquarters plastered with the word "Innovation" on the front of their building and across their business cards. The big question is why not? And the most generous answer might be simple ignorance! But let's not allow ignorance to prevent forward momentum, but begin to embrace the process of innovation like an aspiring culinary chef and a visionary CEO have begun to do.

For more information on starting a "New Product Innovation Culture in your company", Food Technical Consulting (www.foodbevbiz.com) is providing on-site hands-on corporate 2-day workshops and coaching sessions — and a yearly 3-day industry workshop in Denver on "How To Implement New Product Innovation Business Processes and Principles in Your Company", March 18 - 20. Please contact me at dsuderman@foodbevbiz.com or 303-471-1443. A course manual will be available for sale to international small business operators who cannot attend.

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Food & Beverage Innovation

Latest posts by Darrel Suderman
Darrel Suderman
Darrel Suderman, Ph.D., is president of Food Technical Consulting and founder of Food Innovation Institute. He has held senior R&D/QA leadership positions at KFC, Boston Market, Church's Chicken and Quiznos and led KFC’s development team of “Popcorn Chicken”, now a $1B international product –invented by Gene Gagliardi.
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