Dispatches: Pack Expo 2014

Stuck in the innovation mud? There's a way out...

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

R&D expert on bakery and snack innovation: '…In my experience, we've lost something'
R&D expert on bakery and snack innovation: '…In my experience, we've lost something'

Related tags: Innovation, Creativity

To successfully innovate you need a strong process underpinned by capacity, capability and capital, says an R&D expert.

Blake Hutzley, technical advisor at the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturing Association (B&CMA) and previous Kellogg R&D manager, said many new product ideas failed because of complex processes and too many decision steps, particularly in larger companies.

“Companies want to go through a process to where they know that the innovation is going to follow a path. They might start out with ideation, then move along to valuation, then prototypes, then testing – those types of things are usually pretty universal in all companies. But some place along the way, in my experience, we’ve lost something,”​ he told attendees at a Pack Expo 2014 conference today.

Getting stuck in the mud

Along the way, companies wanted to stop and review progress at each stage, Hutzley said, which held back successful and speedy innovation.

Successful innovation needs a successful process that has capacity, capability and capital, says Hutzley
Successful innovation needs a successful process that has capacity, capability and capital, says Hutzley

“I’ve found these decision points can be like sticking your feet in the mud – they slow down the process. When you want innovation and you want it quick; when you want to stay ahead of the competition and move along, in my experience it moves a lot slower if the process gets stuck in the mud.”

There was, however, a strategy to overcome this, he said – the three C’s: capacity, capability and capital.

Companies needed the capacity to action an innovative idea; the capability either in-house or in the market to enable it; and the capital to fund it, he explained.

“The three C’s can be applied to any type of innovation. If you get the right people together to evaluate these three C’s, you can determine really accurately whether that innovation idea is going to go or fall off the table,”​ he said. 

Breaking down the three C’s

Companies needed someone in the group with in-house and market knowledge to drive NPD forward, Hutzley said. This capacity could be bought if it didn’t exist already through co-packer or co-manufacturer contracts, he said.

Machinery to make a product idea happen was also vital. “If that capability is out there, great - you may not own that but you can get that. If it’s a capability that has to come from scratch, you just tacked another year onto your innovation process.”

Lastly, and most importantly, he said companies had to be able to fund innovation. “I’ve seen more projects die because of this ‘c’ than any other.”

However, bringing capital to the table required more than one voice – a high-level executive was necessary to talk budgets and constraints, but others were also needed, like people who could explain cash flows and conversion costs, he said.

Start-ups versus major corporations 

Start-ups are more flexible in their innovation process, Hutzley says
Start-ups are more flexible in their innovation process, Hutzley says

Asked by BakeryandSnacks.com if start-ups were better placed to innovate, Hutzley said: “Yes - start-ups are better placed because they’re more flexible; they don’t have a bureaucracy or method or engrained culture that says ‘we have to do this, this and this and get people to check and sign off before innovation happens’.”

Innovation from these smaller players was ahead of what corporate players could manage, he said.

“The innovation you see from larger companies is normally a little bit restricted. It may be innovative and a good idea, but if you look at the basis, it’s probably based on something that’s already been done.” 

Related topics: Cakes & Pastries, Snacks, Markets

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