"This new product development process makes our cross-functional group very invested," says Heis. "We work very closely together."
The creation of a new product process entailed a switch to a consumer-centered approach.
"Our company's vision and commitment is to new product development," says Lauen. Lauen is a life-size example of the value of cross-functional work. After working eleven years as a food scientist, she made the subtle shift to marketing and new product champion through the developmental process.
One product, the Stuffed Pizza Slices, is the picture of creative innovation. Featuring a patent-pending, one-of-a-kind susceptor with a triangular, vented design, the product delivers on taste and consumer preference. Darci Eckermann, national brand manager for Red Baron calls the Stuffed slices "the most significant and innovative of Red Baron's products to date."
The product is a prime example of long-term strategy and teamwork.
"We really have a good strategic direction in place," says Lauen. "Everything starts with the brand strategy and then the product strategy."
"From the very beginning the strategic perspective is fully communicated to R&D and operations community so they can be mindful of the directions we are considering," adds Gruber. Once we have identified a specific idea, the information is communicated fully to the team."
Though the new product process is somewhat formalized, the Red Baron team knows how vital it is to encourage new concepts from any corner of the Schwan's structure."We have formal ideation sessions, but ideas can come from anyone , suppliers, operations, process engineering" says Lauen. "Mostly they come from interaction with the cross-functional team. First, we will take an idea and explore its validity. Then we [theoretically] follow the process from ideation through production, involving input from the whole team. In everything we do, we want to leverage our operation capabilities."
Naturally, there were some adjustments on the production end. Accommodating the Mini's and the Stuffed Slices put a new twist on existing machinery. But through foresight and cooperation, the Red Baron team found way to leverage the existing resources as well as possible.
"We might be different in that what we offer the consumer reflects our operations capabilities. The Minis, for example, came from ideation and then we had to float that back to R&D and operations teams to predict the feasibility," explains Gruber.
Similar efforts went to the Deep Dish. "Would build the prototype and then evaluate it with the consumers," says Lauen. "Each time we scaled up to a new level we would go back to the consumers and make sure we were offering the best quality."
"One of the remarkable keys to success is that the products that we do bring to market have been thoroughly assessed," says Gruber.
Early sales figures prove the product is on target, but in today's market popularity won't propagate without taste. To ensure this, the team leveraged its culinary force based at the Marshall facility.