2018 R&D Teams of the Year: 3 Novel Approaches to Product Development

This year’s R&D Teams – TreeHouse Foods, Litehouse and Grainful – display different approaches to excellence.

By Food Processing Team

2018 RD TeamsThe unique challenges of private label. A business that grew out of a restaurant. Making entrees out of steel-cut oats. That's the variety in this year's crop of R&D Teams of the Year. The common thread among TreeHouse Foods, Litehouse, and Grainful is their passionate pursuit of excellence within their categories, and coming at a time when there is plenty of turmoil in the processed foods business.

TreeHouse Foods, the winner in the large-company category, meets the unique demands of private label with a broad team, in which food scientists rub shoulders with folks from processing, packaging, labeling, graphics, data management, regulatory, and project management.

Litehouse the restaurant had the best house-made salad dressings its patrons had ever tasted. Now consumers around the country can savor the dressings from that little lakeside restaurant in Hope, Idaho, thanks to Litehouse the food processor – and the winner of our medium-sized company category.

And if the varieties of Grainful's frozen meals – chana masala, Tuscan bean & kale, ranchero chicken – didn't catch your eye, what will is the base of oats and other whole grains. Grainful is the winner of our small-company category.

This is our 10th 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 two in each category. Competing in the large category was Schwan's Chef Collective. The medium category also featured Nellson, a largely private-label bar creator. Golden Cannoli completed the small category. All the runners-up are worthy of their own R&D Team stories.

Their nominating essays were posted on our web site. In March and April, we asked you to vote, with the winners of that popular vote taking the honors. Apparently, innovation is valued by many of you, because 2,412 votes were cast.