Recent interviews with 27 senior innovation and new product development professionals from food and beverage companies in Europe and North America indicate the industry may be heading for an "age of innovation," according to new research by Science Group companies Leatherhead Food Research and Oakland Innovation.
In-depth interviews with leading global brands revealed a trend for more creative, open-minded and collaborative activity to overcome sector challenges. Interviewees talked extensively about a rise in democratic approaches to innovation as well as out-of-sector inspiration and consumer-centricity. There was widespread acknowledgement that brands need to foster big ideas, not just incremental product development.
“Leading food and beverage brands are taking a long hard look at their approach to innovation,” says Chris Wells, Leatherhead’s managing director. “Product development alone is not enough in today’s always-on world where consumers have greater choice and power than ever before. Clever, customer-focused start-ups can quickly disrupt and colonise market segments that have been unchanged for decades.
“In this dynamic new environment, doing things as they have always been done is inherently risky. Getting the right balance of investment between incremental innovation and longer term, open innovation is vital to ensure food and beverage companies remain relevant with consumers. I am looking forward to sharing our findings with the audience later this week.”
"Later this week" is the NLS Food Evolution Summit in California on Sept. 13-14, where Wells will speak. More detailed findings will be released at Leatherhead’s members conference, "New Insights for Global Growth," on Oct. 4. Leatherhead is a nearly 100-year-old research firm in Leatherhead, Surrey, England.