Food Processing 2012 R&D Teams of the Year: An Apple Doesn't Fall Far From The Tree

Innovative cultures enable R&D creativity and success. Congratulations to ConAgra, Truitt Bros. and Kettle Cuisine.

By Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

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Despite an uncertain economy, still-high prices for ingredients and packaging materials and heftier competition on all fronts, new product innovation and team spirit is alive and well in the food and beverage industry.

R&D teams are challenged to work more efficiently, bring down prices and still wow consumers – and they do all that and more. Six in particular made their cases with you, our readers and web site visitors, in this, our fourth annual R&D Teams of the Year competition.

In January and February we asked for your participation in nominating the best R&D teams you knew in three categories: large ($701 million in sales and greater), medium ($100-700 million) and small (less than $100 million in annual sales). Out of a dozen or so nominees, we whittled the list down to ConAgra Foods and Kellogg Co. in the large category; Truitt Bros. and Inventure Foods in the medium-size category; and Kettle Cuisine and Snikiddy in the small group.

Then in March and April, we asked for your final vote. Apparently, innovation is valued by many of you, because responses exceeded our expectations: 3,280 votes were cast. That might be our biggest response to any survey or poll. All three races were relatively close, but the winners are ConAgra, Truitt Bros. and Kettle Cuisine.

Read about the winners on their R&D Team Profile Pages:

Winners chosen by you had many things in common including a cultural dedication to innovation, thinking outside the proverbial box, passion to excel, persistence, teamwork, understanding of consumer needs, a focus on sustainability, excellent leadership and a corporate philosophy of encouraging individual creativity within the team.

After all, according to the late and great innovator Steve Jobs, "Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led and how much you get it."

Kudos to the winning 2012 R&D teams who got it. We thank them for sharing their successful strategies and challenges with our readers on the following pages. Congratulations also go to their runners-up: Kellogg, Inventure Foods and Snikiddy. You ran fine races and demonstrated to us and our readers that your pipelines are full of innovative products. And our thanks to the 3,280 of you who nominated and voted for them.

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