Product Innovation. For some, this is an easier term to type than to accomplish. Knowing this, we invited the VP of Innovation & Product Development at U.S. Foods to tell our members her best practices.
Stacie Sopinka, the keynote speaker at our monthly Innovation Series Breakfast on September 14, successfully extended U.S. Foods' innovation footprint into new channels. She and her team have also increased awareness of sustainably sourced foods within the market.
How did she do it?
Sopinka shared several insightful strategies, successes and lessons. She left our sold out crowd with these ten-ways to succeed through product innovation:
1. Create a long-term strategy. Identify key drivers.
What’s most important -- beyond the corporate strategy -- is having a development plan. Know exactly what you are trying to accomplish.
2. Form Strategic Partnerships. Build trust.
You never know where a new partnership will start. Meet with different people as much as you can. As you form relationships, you’re going to hit hurdles. In the end, it’s about building trust and having the tough talks about what works and what doesn’t.
3. Determine your target market. Know when to jump on a trend.
Do your research to help you find trends and whether or not they are on the way ‘in’ or ‘out’. You don’t want to jump on too early or too late.
4. Take calculated risks.
Having diverse perspectives at the table is essential to the development process. Look at each opportunity and/or risk through various lenses. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope.
5. Move quickly or get left behind.
It’s a concept that many of us struggle with, but it’s so important. Trend cycles move quickly. If you take too much time, your product will be redundant when it finally hits the market.
6. Engage key stakeholders in the process. Remain open to feedback.
Feedback is a gift. Partnering with people offering different perspectives can positively impact the development process.
7. Avoid ‘Design by Committee’.
While feedback is a gift, there must be a clear vision of what the product stands for and what problem it’s solving. You’ll lose your way if there are too many voices. Stay flexible, but only when receiving new information.
8. Identify the problem you are solving for your customer.
Start with a scope. Understand why you’re developing your product. You must figure out first what place this product has in the ecosystem.
9. Tell people about the product’s provenance.
Telling the product’s story is a great way to engage customers. Tell your product story in any way you can: like when training your sales team or when talking to marketing. These departments will creatively pass these stories onto customers.
10. Be prepared for Murphy’s Law.
Product development is full of pitfalls. You use your thick skin to sell your ideas, now you need that thick skin when things go wrong. Because things willgo wrong. Be resilient and keep moving.
Sopinka was full of real-world answers to many audience questions. You too can join us at our next Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network Innovation Breakfast on October 12. The discussion: Food entrepreneurs,start up investments, and Food 2.0.
by Maya Norris, Managing Editor
Original content can be found at: https://www.profoodworld.com/articles/forefront-innovation
Industry vet Barry Calpino of Conagra Brands shares his tips for innovation in the food and beverage industry.
Achieving innovation in the crowded and competitive food and beverage industry is no easy feat. Barry Calpino, vice president of innovation at Conagra Brands, knows this first hand. The industry vet has spent his career developing innovative products and leading innovation initiatives at some of the largest food companies in the country, including the Kellogg Company, Kraft Foods and the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company. At a recent breakfast event hosted by the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, Calpino shared his tips and insights on how food and beverage companies can create innovative products and a culture of innovation that will transform their organizations.
Calpino cut his teeth at SC Johnson, where he learned his first lesson in innovation: Be agile, nimble and first to market with trend-forward ideas. At SC Johnson, Calpino managed the Ziploc brand. When he discovered that competitor Glad was going to launch plastic food containers, he knew Ziploc had to develop its own food containers to stay competitive. But he had to convince the leadership team at SC Johnson that this would be a groundbreaking, game-changing category. He also had to persuade them to forgo the usual three-year development timeline in order to launch the product in five months and beat Glad to the marketplace. SC Johnson launched the Ziploc food containers just prior to Thanksgiving of 1998 — and it’s still a successful product for the company today.
“I told everybody that if we don’t do these containers, we’re dead. Everybody thought I was completely out of mind. I fought and fought and fought. And at some point, everybody agreed to it,” Calpino said. “If I hadn’t done this, today somebody would be talking about how Glad killed Ziploc.”
Compressing the timeframe for product development is a tactic Calpino uses today at Conagra. “A company committed to really being current and forward-thinking can’t spend two years testing,” he said. “By the time you launch, the trend is already gone.”
Anticipating trends before they take hold is also key to innovation, according to Calpino. When he worked at Kellogg, he helped develop the Special K protein line, which incorporated protein into cereals and snacks. His supervisor believed that consumers would want protein-fortified products to accommodate their healthy lifestyles and weight loss. The company has since expanded this protein line with items such as bottled water, meal-replacement bars and cracker chips.
“I hope all of you have the chance to work with a boss who sees things before they happen,” he said. “I had a boss at Kellogg who was absolutely convinced that protein was going to become this big mainstream concept in 2004. Everybody thought he was crazy.”
To create truly innovative products as well as a culture of innovation at a company, Calpino recommended focusing on developing a few products rather than hundreds of product launches a year. That kind of prioritization brings energy, intention and creativity to the team developing the product and gets ingrained into the culture, Calpino said.
“As an innovator, part of what makes you tick is you always have tons of ideas, and you want to do a thousand things,” Calpino said. “But there’s power to doing less and doing it really well.”
He employed this method at Kraft. When he first joined the company, Kraft launched about 150 products a year. He ended up reducing the number of new product launches significantly. “Our goal was to gain $100 milllion in new platforms instead of 150 new products,” Calpino said. “We said, ‘Let’s talk about platforms, not products.’”
As a result, Kraft created eight products over a three-year period that won the Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation Awards, which honors new product launches that maintain sustained growth for at least two years. Those products included Gevalia premium coffee, Belvita breakfast biscuits, Lunchables Uploaded and Velveeta Cheesy Skillets.
For food and beverage companies based in Chicago, Calpino urged them to immerse themselves in the city’s diverse and vibrant food culture. From iconic steakhouses to classic deep-dish pizza to inventive vegetarian cuisine to ethnic spins on fried chicken, Chicago’s flourishing restaurant scene can provide inspiration for a food and beverage company’s next great product. In addition, collaborate with the chefs and entrepreneurs behind these restaurants, Calpino said.
Conagra did just that when it purchased Frontera Foods from renowned chef Rick Bayless as part of its strategy to develop a brand portfolio filled with premium, higher quality products. The Frontera line includes skillet meals and frozen single-serve bowls.
“Chicago is filled with entrepreneurs and creative people who are doing amazing things with food. And for all of us in the room, that means opportunities,” Calpino said. “It’s full of people to work with and talk to. Partners who can inspire you. Partners to prototype with. Partners to show you new ways of thinking. Take advantage of it.”
By Debra Schug, Editor-in-Chief
Fresh has been the buzzword in the food and beverage industry for the past few years. With the retail landscape changing and more companies drawing attention to their offerings located in the perimeter of the store, consumer packaged goods are facing a number of challenges.
“The center of the store is under threat,” says Barry Calpino, vice president of innovation for Conagra Brands, addressing an audience of approximately 75 people from food and beverage companies attending the first installment of the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network’s Innovation Breakfast Series.
Right now, as more consumers are doing more grocery shopping online, CPG companies are learning how to adapt to technology that enables product delivery in under an hour. However, Calpino says the real challenge for companies like Conagra is to make interesting, engaging and exciting products.
“We have to make our center-store products so good that you’re going to buy them online or in the store,” he says. “Believe it or not, the center store doesn’t just sit there all day empty. People do buy products from the center of the store.”
He says there is a lot of opportunity in that spot of the store, but it requires creativity. However, food retailers are very happy to discuss new ideas for CPG.
“The center store is pretty valuable real estate,” he says. “The flip side of that is for a food company, you have to be really relevant for all the new shopping.”
Under innovation trends, he says everyone is obsessed with technology, and for good reason since it is enabling diverse food experiences. However, he warns not to forget the chefs when you’re focused on artificial intelligence.
“If you only focus on the technology changing the food industry, you’re going to miss the actual food itself,” he says. “Because 20 years from now, I predict humans will still eat.”
To work in food innovation, Calpino says there should be many different sources of inspiration. This is why Conagra has chosen to work with and support new food and beverage startups. Conagra is one of two large food companies that donated money to build a new 67,000 sq. ft. food and beverage incubator facility in Chicago. The Hatchery, as it is called, will be focused on helping food start-ups grow by providing access to resources and expertise.
The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network is a newly launched program designed to build a collaborative platform for food and beverage companies in Chicago. For more information, visit www.chicagolandfood.org.
By Alan Reed, Executive Director of Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network
Did you know more than 4,500 food and beverage companies call Chicagoland home? This accounts for roughly 130,000 employees and $32B in annual sales.
Food and beverage companies are clearly making an investment in Chicago, but the question is, what are we investing to foster the vast amount of talent and expertise that resides in the area? What are we doing to drive inclusive growth and secure Chicagoland’s spot as a global food and beverage hub?
All of these questions drove us to launch the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network in April this year. Our goal is to bring together the region’s stakeholders and make Chicagoland the “Silicon Valley of food and beverage”, based on its growth, innovation, and connectedness of industry.
We recently kicked off our Innovation Breakfast Series. On July 13 we featured Barry Calpino, Conagra Brands’ new Vice President of Innovation. Barry is the first of many Chicago leaders we are highlighting as we aim to shape the future of Chicago’s regional food and beverage industry.
One of the many insightful things Barry shared with us was the idea of focusing on a few key items in order to be great. He personally shared with us the story of Mark Parker, Nike’s CEO and chairman, as an example of this concept.
After being named CEO in 2006, Mark called one of his buddies for some sound business advice. As a fellow innovator and extremely respected man in the industry, Mark’s friend gave him some invaluable advice that would help him earn the title of one of the “most creative CEOs” of his time.
The friend was Steve Jobs. He simply told Mark at Nike to “just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”
As innovators, this is extremely hard to do. Our minds constantly fill with new ideas. Our inherent tenacity eventually makes it difficult for us not to see each idea through.
This, unfortunately, is why many businesses fail. It’s impossible to do a ton of things really well. There’s power in just focusing on less, knocking those few things out of the park.
Barry explained how he had the pleasure of working with some amazing companies over his career where innovation was ingrained in their culture. As diverse as these companies are from industry to size, they all shared one goal. They all want the same thing: to make products that make people's lives better. Products that are worth standing in line for.
Barry and the ConAgra team is an example of some of the exciting things happening here in our city. Not only are they committed to brand product evolution, but they’re doing this in one of the best cities in the country: Chicago.
Chicago has a lot of exciting things going on in the food and beverage space. We’re the blend of two coasts and have the best of both the established and the new. This creates the perfect atmosphere for inspiration, but also an increased difficulty to solely “focus on the good stuff.”
We launched the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network with the goal of driving innovative growth by bringing together the region’s stakeholders. With more than 4,500 food and beverage companies that call Chicagoland home, the sheer size and investment in Chicago by our industry requires an investment on our part to foster the talent and expertise that resides in the area.
One of these local talents is Barry Calpino, Conagra Brands Vice President of Innovation. We had the pleasure of hearing him speak during our inaugural Innovation Breakfast Series on July 13th. Barry is the first of many Chicago leaders we will highlight as we aim to shape the future of Chicago’s regional food and beverage industry.
With the astronomical amount of growth and constant shifting occurring in our industry, Barry says it’s important for innovators in the Chicago food and beverage industry to remain focused on doing the following three things:
1. Don’t Forget the Chefs
Tech is the hot, ‘it’ word. Technology is constantly changing the way consumers shop, how they find out about products, how they rate products. However, we can’t forget the actual food. Twenty years from now everyone is still going to need and want to eat food, still bond over it. Food can fill us with emotions; it’s powerful. Let’s take the time to visit restaurants and see what they’re doing. Chicago chefs are doing innovative things - just as much as tech people are.
2. Immerse Yourself in Inspiration
Barry said ConAgra is nestled in the middle of downtown Chicago for one reason. Inspiration. From the local talent to the vast network of industry partners. “Opening our doors to inspiration is vital to fueling growth and innovation within our companies,” says Barry.
3. Be Flexible
Consumers constantly drive change in our industry. The lifeblood of any company should be adaptability. “At ConAgra for example, they’re making their center store products so interesting and engaging that consumers will buy them in the store and online. In order to remain relevant, we have to adapt to the trends of the time,” adds Barry.
As innovators, we have to become comfortable with the idea that positive outcomes are not always possible. There will be some failures along the way. And that’s okay. Each failure hopefully gets us closer to that next, big idea that will change lives for the better.
Original article: http://www.industryweek.com/education-training/food-manufacturing-chicago-gets-boost
Chicago has been a food and beverage manufacturing hub since the days when James Kraft delivered cheese by horse and buggy and the newborn National Biscuit Company went on a bakery-buying bender. In 1914, the city became “hog butcher to the world” and “stacker of wheat” in Carl Sandburg’s poem. Sandburg, had he had more wind left in him, also might have added “palace of sweets”—as Brach’s called itself—and “citadel of Cracker Jacks.”
Today, for every Wrigley, Tyson and Morton Salt—companies with a corporate footprint but not necessarily much manufacturing in Chicago--there’s a Vienna Beef or Ingredion with significant production in the region. And there is also a critical mass of small producers--tortilla makers, craft breweries, gourmet chocolatiers--looking to expand.
It all adds up to a big impact on region’s economy. According to mapping data from Harvard University’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, the Chicago metropolitan area is the second largest food production economic cluster in the country, behind only Los Angeles.
All told, the Windy City region has 4,500 companies in food and beverage manufacturing, packaging, wholesale and distribution; food-related equipment, tools and machinery; and farm product wholesalers. The industry employs 130,000 workers, and brings in $32 billion in annual sales. It’s gained a more healthy diversity in recent decades, moving from meat and grain to eight different subsectors.
But there are some challenges. Growth in Chicago’s food manufacturing has been lackluster, with companies skewing older and not quickly adapting to changing consumer tastes toward natural and gourmet foods. Productivity is also not as stellar as it used to be compared to other parts of the country. Smaller manufacturers, making up 94% of Chicago’s food manufacturing establishments, are having trouble making the connections they need to flourish, or don’t have the means or the expertise to update their technology.
A new nonprofit organization, the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, is hoping to inject some innovation into the landscape here, partnering with manufacturers large and small, workforce organizations and neighborhood leaders. With the help of $1 million in seed funding from the MacArthur Foundation and JPMorgan Chase, it was formed last year with an eye toward bringing inclusive job growth to Chicago.
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“We see this as a way to ensure that we maintain and grow our edge in food manufacturing,” says Theresa E. Mintle, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, one of the partners in the project.
Inclusive economic clusters are a relatively new idea in economic development, and a particular focus of the MacArthur Foundation. They focus on areas that have potential for job growth at all levels, wage earner and professional, high school/vocational education and college degrees.
“When you look at some industry sectors, you don’t see the diversity of jobs,” says Alan Reed, a former dairy industry organizer from Rosemont, Illinois, who is now CFBN’s executive director. “If you look at technology for instance, it’s usually people with four-year degrees and beyond.” With food and beverage, however, “really there’s a variety of jobs all the way from entry level manufacturing where you can have less than a high school diploma, all the way up to white collar jobs and everywhere in between.”
In Chicago, “food and beverage was a clear place where there was just a lot more opportunity for inclusive growth,” he says.
CFBN plans to work on four areas: talent and workforce development, food safety and regulatory, innovation and technology, and business services like capital and financing and risk mitigation. Small manufacturing enterprises (SMEs), with less than 250 employees, often have trouble getting access to capital to expand, or may need to collaborate with a co-manufacturer to increase production.
First order of business is assembling the board and raising funding for a workforce training pilot program with Instituto del Progreso Latino, a well-respected vocational training program based on the Near South Side of Chicago.
Alejandro Silva, former chairman and CEO of pork-rind maker Evans Food Group, is a board member, as is Ricardo Alvalrez, CEO of snackmaker Raymundo’s Food Group. So is Theresa E. Mintle, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
“We see this as a way to ensure that we maintain and grow our edge in food manufacturing,” says Mintle.
The 12-week workforce pilot program is scheduled to begin this summer, with 75 students. A third will have never worked in any manufacturing before, a third will have manufacturing experience but are looking to get to the next level, and a third will be working toward the supervisory level.
Reed calls the workforce piece “a massive issue,” because food manufacturing is one of the most regulated industries, especially with the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, and its automation tends to be very specialized.
“Not only do you have to manufacture that food correctly, it has to get into the right package, labeled with the right allergens,” says Reed.
And unlike other manufacturing sectors, food and beverage historically hasn’t done a good job of collaborating with educational institutions or each other on training.
Shelley Jurewicz is executive director of FaB Wisconsin, a food manufacturing association that CFBN has looked to as its studying workforce training programs. Jurewicz says that the National Restaurant Association has a certificate that is ubiquitous, offering a basic level of safety training, “but there’s nothing similar to that in food and beverage manufacturing.”
It also takes work behind the scenes to change perceptions of food manufacturing so people are willing to take the career training, says Jurewicz. FaB “spent a good deal of time” developing a technical one-year diploma in food processing, “with a lot of excitement around it, but it did not attract students,” says Jurewicz. “We had all the employers, the tech college on board. We were calling it a “Food Maker School.”
Now they’ve regrouped and are doing work around perception. “The public in general was either demonizing food manufacturing or they were largely unaware of it,” Jurewicz says. “What it even looked like. What happened behind the scens of the products they saw at their markets and their grocers.”
Instituto del Progreso Latino, which will host the CFPN training, already has well-established programs (and even two charter high schools) with an emphasis on general manufacturing and healthcare. Ricardo Estrada, vice president of education and programs, is optimistic that there will be interest in food manufacturing training here. The neighborhoods the institute primarily serves—Pilsen, Little Village and Back of the Yards—are 70% Latino, with some residents already trained in their home countries in either food manufacturing or machining.
“We have a community that is eager to learn, to make more money, but the challenge is that they don’t have the basic skills necessary to learn the technical skills.”
Instituto’s training is three-pronged: college readiness first, transferable skills like time management and critical thinking second, and then technical skills. The technical skills require working closely with employers to determine “what is their production process, what is their new technology, what are the skills needed to operate the equipment,” says Estrada.
“There are a lot of immigrants in our community [especially those from Central and South America] who are actually coming from their countries with a lot of technical skills,” says Estrada. “They bring their expertise in operating machines and being able to understand processes. In this case we need to concentrate on the language for them to become employable.”
New group aims to make Chicago the ‘Silicon Valley of food and beverage’
By Adi Menayang, 10-Apr-2017
Non-profit Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, backed by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and World Business Chicago, launched last week to establish the Midwestern city as a hub for food manufacturing innovation.
Original content posted at http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20170404/NEWS07/170409979
Crain's Chicago Business: Food and beverage manufacturing already racks up $32 billion a year in the Chicago area. A new nonprofit, Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, wants to see that number get even bigger.
Chicago is an “economic cluster” for the food and beverage industry, just as Hollywood is a cluster for entertainment and Silicon Valley is a cluster for technology, says Alan Reed, executive director of the newly formed Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network. The initiative was announced today and its first meeting is scheduled for today at Kendall College in Chicago. Reed, the nonprofit's sole paid employee to date, most recently was executive vice president of strategy and innovation at Dairy Management in Rosemont, an organization that aims to help increase sales and demand for dairy products.
The network focuses on what Reed calls “the middle ground” of the food supply chain—not agriculture, and not retail outlets such as grocery stores and restaurants, but food packaging and processing plants. The network plans to boost that slice of the industry's presence in Chicago, and at the same time create jobs in economically underdeveloped areas of the city.
For its first initiative, the network is working with Instituto del Progreso Latino, a West Side nonprofit, to develop Career Pathways in Food Manufacturing, a curriculum that could serve as the foundation for a food-manufacturing training institute. “Food and beverage manufacturers are concerned about their labor force moving forward,” Reed says. The training institute would “meet the needs of the industry and do something incredible for the neighborhoods,” he says. The area's 4,500 food and beverage manufacturing firms employ 130,000 people.
The network does not include restaurant partners, such as the Illinois Restaurant Association, but might in the future. “We hope there would be natural synergies over time” with such groups, Reed says.
World Business Chicago and Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce are key partners in the network, which has applied for 501 (c) 3 status. Theresa Mintle, CEO of the chamber and Jeff Malehorn, CEO of World Business Chicago, serve on the board of the network. “Chicago has been a hub for food production and distribution in three centuries,” said Mintle in the release announcing the initiative. “This new vision for collaboration across the modern supply chain, plus stakeholders from colleges to city neighborhoods, could help create the next great era in innovation and opportunity.”
Board members from the industry include Alejandro Silva, former chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Evans Food Group, maker of pork-rind products, and Ricardo Alvarez, CEO, Raymundo's Food Group, the Bedford Park manufacturer of gelatin-based and pudding snacks.
MacArthur Foundation and JPMorgan Chase Foundation provided initial funding of just less than $1 million, Reed says. Other partners include Cook County, the nonprofit Family Farmed, Industrial Corridor of Nearwest Chicago, Instituto del Progreso Latino, Illinois Institute of Technology, the Institute for Food Safety & Health and the Chicago section of the Institute of Food Technologists.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A new non-profit seeks to grow the food and beverage manufacturing industry in and around Chicago.
The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network is a nonprofit that will seek to bring together the region’s food and beverage companies, focusing on innovation, collaboration and growth. WBBM’s Mike Krauser reports
“We are technically a food and beverage cluster organization. You’re familiar with Hollywood, as an entertainment cluster; food and beverage is such a big business here in town that we actually are the second largest food and beverage cluster in the United States,” said Alan Reed, Executive Director of the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network.
Link to originl content: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2017/04/04/the-chicagoland-food-beverage-network-launches-seeks-to-grow-industry/
Link to story on Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-chicagoland-food-beverage-network-0405-biz-20170404-story.html
A new Chicago nonprofit hopes to establish the city's reputation as the Silicon Valley of the food and beverage industry by partnering with local businesses to address regional concerns.
The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, backed by World Business Chicago and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, launched Tuesday at a Kendall College event. Though it's just getting started, the group intends to secure funding for a new food manufacturing institute to train workers, said Alan Reed, executive director for the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network.
The Chicago area, home to giants of the food and beverage industry like Kraft Heinz, Mondelez International, Beam Suntory and MillerCoors, also boasts a growing number of small and midsized food companies, Reed said. Working together to develop the workforce would benefit all, he said.
Ultimately, the network could be a catalyst for decent-paying jobs in economically depressed Chicago neighborhoods, he said. But first, the nonprofit has to convince food and beverage companies, some of whom are competitors, to work together.
"Everyone loves the idea but says, 'I'm not sure who's in charge of that in our company.' ... It's going to take a minute to bring all the parties together," Reed said.
With regards to the proposed manufacturing institute, the nonprofit is seeking foundation funding to help develop the concept before trying to partner with businesses, he said. The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network is teaming up with Instituto del Progreso Latino on that effort.
Such an institute could train workers new to the industry, as well as providing midcareer training on new technology and skills, Reed said.
More generally, the network hopes to convene and collaborate with food and beverage businesses on workforce development, food safety and business services. The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network received initial funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation.
Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network
1 W Monroe Street
Chicago, IL 60603
Tel (312) 525-9653