What does Agile Innovation really mean?

Ed Collins, Director, and Joyce Lizzi, Senior Director
Eurofins Food Integrity & Innovation, Sensory, Consumer Research and Product Design

The food and beverage sector, with its shifting and fragmenting consumer tastes, has started to use Agile principles that originated in the technology space.  The benefits of Agile Innovation are simple yet enticing – products that consumers love, delivered more quickly.  The principles sound basic, foundational even: Engage consumers early and often.  Refine and iterate rapidly. Collaborate as a team.  However, companies routinely struggle to apply these principles in their organization.

The race to market success in the food and beverage sector is often being led by newer, smaller, more nimble companies1. Large, established CPG companies who previously had a successful model have discovered that the success was largely based on scale. They were experts at executing stage-gate processes that were consistent and repeatable.

These established companies have responded by reducing R&D and new product development budgets. This has equated to some of the lowest R&D spends by percentage in any industry2, but companies have not adjusted their new product launch expectations. This leaves battered R&D and new product development organizations under more pressure with fewer resources than ever.

Could it be that the distinct and separate roles and detailed processes employed by these large organizations, the same processes that moved them forward previously, are now holding them back?

The answer seems simple, but simple isn’t always easy.  Even companies that are aware of the issue and try to bring Agile into their organization are failing.  The same disconnected, disparate functions, fear of early prototyping and consumer engagement, and focus on traditional metrics that stifle innovation combine to stifle Agile efforts as well.  To really succeed, companies need to look outside their organization.

Enter Eurofins Food Integrity & Innovation.  Bringing all of the pieces together in one place, our Agile Innovation process fits the changing landscape and successful solutions emerge. Focused expertise across all aspects of the process — product development, culinary , consumer insights, sensory evaluation, food safety, pilot scale-up and process development – produce a level of collaboration that is difficult to obtain when the roles of key functions have conflicting objectives.

With a unique position of having that rare combination of expertise in nimble processes, technical depth and broad expertise across the development spectrum, Food Integrity and Innovation becomes more than a vendor that only does what you ask. It has become a partner that thinks with you every step of the way.

We have had the opportunity to partner with some of the largest companies in the food and beverage market on product design projects. One case study reveals a company that identified an opportunity to enter a growing beverage space, an area they had no expertise, but needed to get to market faster than they ever had before.  They wanted help.

As we began the partnership, the first step was to bring together a small, cross-functional team with expertise in product development, culinary, sensory, consumer research, food safety, and process development.  They worked together, bringing shared knowledge and a singular focus. Next, consumers were engaged early – much earlier than in a traditional development process.  In a matter of a few days and weeks, rapid protocepts were developed, refined and vetted, and put in front of consumers for immediate feedback.

The product protocepts born out of this process balanced consumer preferences and the client’s tight nutritional and ingredient guardrails.  Throughout sensory discovery and prototyping and development Covance kept a keen eye on designing a great product that could be produced at mass market scale. Finally, products were developed for market launch and passed full consumer validation research.  At the test market stage, the products were the top-performing SKUs in the category.

The outcome? From a company that had a routine development time of 18+ months, the successful nationwide launch was conducted 9 months after project kickoff.  Quite a feat. The client was thrilled.

We have the expertise to guide companies through Agile product development in a true collaborative manner.

The unique blend offered by Food Integrity and Innovation is one of deep technical expertise in each of the skillsets required for innovation – consumer and sensory insights, creativity, product development, process development, and food safety. All one team who are all in on one result.  In the end, the products that are developed are on-trend, loved by consumers and ready for production.

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1Lauster, S., & Veldhoen, S. (2016, December 21). 2017 Consumer Packaged Goods Trends. Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://www.strategyand.pwc.com/trend/2017-Consumer-Packaged-Goods-Trends

2The Changing Landscape of Consumer Packaged Goods. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://www.cbinsights.com/research-cpg-trends-transcript