2006 Processor of the Year Kellogg Co.: Fueling Growth with Innovation

Kellogg's sophisticated product development center facilitates innovation and experimentation and keeps the new product pipeline full.

By Donna Berry, Contributing Editor

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This is one of three segments of Food Processing's December 2006 cover story on its "Processor of the Year," Kellogg Co. Read an overview of the processor; access the article on Kellogg's manufacturing operations.


 

"Innovative environment" describes the William Keith Kellogg Institute (WKKI) for Food and Nutrition Research. Opened in 1997 in downtown Battle Creek, Mich., the facility is Kellogg Co.'s think tank for food innovations.

For those who have been with the company for years, and there are many, WKKI reinforces that the company is a trendsetter. After all, it was Mr. Kellogg who developed the corn flake some 112 years ago and thereby created the category of dry breakfast cereal. For newcomers in R&D, it is often WKKI and the company's ongoing commitment to innovation that convinces them to join Kellogg.

No waffling on quality: Maggie Lewis (left) and Roger Dennis work on refining Eggo waffles in the San Jose, Calif., facility.
No waffling on quality: Maggie Lewis (left) and Roger Dennis work on refining Eggo waffles in the San Jose, Calif., facility.

"It was the existence of WKKI that motivated me to join the company," says Margaret Bath, vice president of corporate research, quality and technology. "This facility is a recruitment tool that attracts the best of the best to join our team of innovators. It is strategically designed to fuel innovation, and innovators immediately realize the possibilities when they step into the facility.

"It's a 'land of opportunity,' " Bath continues. She emphasizes that now more than ever Kellogg is committed to aggressive innovation and product line diversity. "Innovation is embedded in our culture. Kellogg's has come a long way since the corn flake, and we are always looking at new technologies and new platforms.

"Something I always remind my staff is to expect some misses as part of the innovation process," she says. "Our focus on innovation means we are not afraid to fail. What is important is to leverage the learnings from misses and use them to hopefully produce more hits."

Kellogg's diversified R&D staff works together, building on each other's knowledge base. The staff is organized by either business unit (frozen foods, morning foods, snacks and specialty), or by geographic unit (Asia, Australia, Europe and Latin America). "The key purpose for WKKI is to create cross-cultural teams to identify global growth opportunities and develop products that can be marketed in multiple regions instead of just one country," Bath says. "Trends develop at different paces around the world, and we want to be sure we are on track everywhere."

WKKI has five restaurant-quality kitchens, extensive research facilities and a large, flexible experimental production area. Its pilot plant for manufacturing test batches of new snacks and cereals is one-tenth the size of an actual manufacturing plant.

"In order to keep projects on track and ensure that we commercialize on time, at design and at costs, we have gatekeepers who work across all functions," says Bath. "Speed to market is important, but will never be the sole driver of innovation. We always build in time to do our homework - from the science to the consumer's voice. We won't compromise quality, and we always deliver against our and the consumer's expectations. We never forget that it is about delighting our customers with variety, convenience and great taste."

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