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2017 R&D Teams of the Year: Blended R&D Families

Food Processing awards three product development teams the coveted R&D Teams of the Year award.

By Food Processing Staff

RnDTeam GraphicThere are many "blended families" in America these days. With the attention and care of loving parents, these kids can thrive. That phenomenon has trickled down to our R&D Teams of the Year, as two of our winners this year are from blended companies.

Tyson Foods has an 80-year history of developing products from animal protein, starting with John W. Tyson's chickens. The company already was climbing the food chain but took a leap with the 2014 acquisition of Hillshire Brands. Together, the two R&D teams brought forth products such as Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa, Jimmy Dean Delights Frittatas and Jimmy Dean Stuffed Hash Browns.

B&G Foods from day one has been a collection of old and often neglected brands into which the company has breathed new life. Its product development people were particularly excited to acquire the Green Giant brand, and they shifted into high gear, introducing 15 new Jolly Green products after just six months of work. In particular, they caught the wave of riced vegetables, replacing rice and potato sides with Green Giant Riced Veggies, Veggie Tots and Mashed Cauliflower.

Nonni's is kind of blended, too, tracing its recipe back to an Italian grandmother but with a private equity firm now in charge. Nonni herself at first might scoff at biscotti in Chocolate Peppermint Crunch or Dark Chocolate Pumpkin, but one taste would win her over.

This is our ninth annual feature on R&D Teams of the Year, and the process remains the same. Early this year, we asked you in print and on our website to nominate the best R&D teams you know at small (less than $100 million in sales), medium ($100 million-$1 billion) and large (more than $1 billion in sales) companies. Out of a dozen or so nominees, we whittled the list down to eight.

Runner-up in the large category was Campbell Soup, nominating the team that specialized in the Well Yes! Line fo clean-label soups. The medium category also featured Litehouse Foods, which developed Greek yogurt-based salad dressings. The small-size category had several interesting nominees: Grainful, which has made oats into a dinner side dish; RW Garcia, which makes tortilla chips from pulses; and custom-manufacturer Surlean Foods.

All had interesting stories to tell. Their nominating essays were posted on our web site. In March, we asked you to vote, with the winners of that popular vote taking the honors. Apparently, innovation is valued by many of you, because 1,586 votes were cast.

We profile the winners on individual pages, which you can read here:

Thanks to the 1,586 of you who voted. And if you feel bad that your company and your team was not among this year's contestants, it’s not too early to drop us a line for next year. Email dfusaro@putman.net.