We didn't set out to be different, but when we asked for nominations for this year's R&D Teams of the Year voting, we got some nontraditional companies as nominees.
We profile the winners on the following pages:
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
You'd be hard-pressed to find an AdvancePierre retail brand (although that effort is coming along), but this merger of companies has been mastering the foodservice space, especially institutional (school lunches) and convenience stories. Its competitor in the runoff election, Keystone Foods, also lacks retail recognition but has a commanding presence in foodservice, especially quick-serve restaurants.
Those were the competitors in the large company category. In the small-company competition, we put a typical startup, Mamma Chia, up against a consulting product development company. International Food Network has been behind quite a few multimillion-dollar launches, including Ultra Slim-Fast and Benecol, and practically was the R&D dept. for a fledgling ice cream company called Haagen-Dazs.
In the medium-size category, we had a more traditional pairing: Gorton's Seafood vs. Inventure Foods. Traditional, yes, but both very innovative in their own categories.
This is our fifth annual feature on R&D teams, 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 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 those six above.
Then in March and April, with the help of essays from the six nominees, we asked for your final vote. Apparently, innovation is valued by many of you, because 1,395 votes were cast. This is purely a popularity contest, so these winners were chosen by you.
Kudos also those runners-up – Keystone Foods, Inventure Foods and Mamma Chia – who chronicled plenty of innovation in their essays. And thank you to the 1,395 of you who voted.