Ever see columnists or marketers promise “possibly our most exciting” something or other and then not deliver. I hope I’ve never been guilty of that. But I’ll use that phrase this month.
Early this year, when we embarked on the project of naming at least one R&D Team of the Year, I was cautiously pessimistic. I know how busy our food & beverage readers are, especially their product development folks. And I know how secretive and insular food & beverage companies are. Why, it’s difficult for us to crown an overall Processor of the Year – more on that later.
Nevertheless, the first step was the realization that somebody the size of a Kraft should not be competing with Big Bull Jerky (pretty much a one-man show out of St. Paul Park, Minn. – how you doin’, Joe Hinz?). So we decided on three sizes of companies.
We wanted a popular vote, but with some order. So we broke the process into two steps: an open nomination process, following by voting on just a few finalist R&D teams. The nomination numbers were not impressive and the suggested companies were all over the map, but we managed to pull out a couple good suggestions. We made those 11 companies our finalists, posted their names on our web site and crossed our fingers that somebody would vote.
What followed was phenomenal, especially for a first-time effort. We got hundreds of votes the first day. It didn’t take long before we broke 1,000. By the time we closed the polls, we had 1,555 votes – beyond our wildest dreams. If the web software was working correctly, nobody could vote more than once.
I should have known we had struck a nerve back in the nomination process, as uneven as that was. An acquaintance in R&D at a very large multinational called me to make a nomination. I was about to write down his company’s name when he instead suggested Heinz (not even one of our finalists). He said he really admired the work they were doing in frozen foods, translating T.G.I. Friday’s appetizers and entrees into packaged goods. He lauded how the R&D team was integrating a good understanding of packaging into several product development projects.
One of the write-in nominations suggested the product developers at Pilgrim’s Pride. Frankly, it wasn’t the most compelling argument and it contained no product examples, it just said that after all they had been through with that beleaguered company, they deserved some recognition.
I was thrilled when someone put into nomination tiny Peas of Mind, whose principals (probably the whole company) I met at a Natural Products Expo a year or so back.
So you have delighted me, dear readers, with your response. Thank you.
You can read about the winners of our R&D Teams of the Year, here: 2009 R&D Teams of the Year: There Is No ‘I’ in R&D