This year's R&D Teams of the Year are symbolic of current trends in the food & beverage industry. Many companies are moving toward healthful, authentic, wholesome (and free-from) foods, and Bolthouse Farms, Ruiz Foods and Among Friends perfectly capture those trends – although somewhat separately.
Bolthouse started as a carrot farm and remains committed to fruits and vegetables, even though its acquisition by Campbell Soup nudges the unit into salad dressings, premium juices, children's snacks and even almond milk.
2014: Hearthside Foods, Angie's Boomchickapop
2013: AdvancePierre Foods, Gorton's Seafood, International Food Network
2012: ConAgra, Truitt Bros., Kettle Cuisine
2011: Unilever North America, Herr Foods, HappyFamily
2010: Hormel Foods, Reser’s Fine Foods, Annie Chun’s
2009: General Mills, Kettle Foods, Peas of Mind
Ruiz Foods is a classic ethnic-family business story, with the third generation putting modern and convenient spins on its Mexican food roots.
Among Friends celebrates the joy of – while providing simplicity to – home baking. But cofounding friends Suzie and Lizann collect all the ingredients for you, in the process substituting for the refined white flour, most of the white sugar and now gluten.
Those are this year's winners in our sixth annual feature on R&D teams. But kudos also to their those runners-up: Chobani in the large company category, Litehouse Foods in the medium-sized category and both Reed's Inc. and TastyBite in the small-company category. All four of these contenders did some remarkable product development work in the past year, and all three races were close.
Check out our 2015 R&D Team Winners:
- 2015 R&D Team of the Year: Bolthouse Farms
- 2015 R&D Team of the Year: Ruiz Foods
- 2015 R&D Team of the Year: Among Friends LLC
R&D Team Methodology
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 knew in three categories: large ($751 million in sales and greater), medium ($100-750 million) and small (less than $100 million in annual sales). Out of a dozen or so nominees, we whittled the list down to those seven above.
Then in March and April, with the help of essays from the seven nominees, we asked for your final vote. Apparently, innovation is valued by many of you, because 1,769 votes were cast. This is purely a popularity contest, so the winners were chosen by you.
Thanks to the 1,769 of you who voted. And if you feel bad that your company and your team was not among this years’ contestants, it’s not too early to drop us a line for next year.