LAS VEGAS — Responding to consumer trends with new product innovation requires organizational discipline, responsiveness and strategic decision-making to meet the shifting demands in the market, said Roy Benin, president for category strategy and innovation for Weston Foods.
Mr. Benin noted that the Toronto-based company takes an intentional, disciplined approach with its innovation strategy.
“We need to make choices,” he said. “We can’t chase a whole bunch of pieces of innovation. We have to chase those ideas that are meaningful and hardwire them into your capital program.”
Weston Foods created innovation centers to develop market insights and foster new ideas for product development. Twice a year, the company conducts an innovation tournament where it puts 250 ideas to consumers and asks them for feedback.
“We want to have a consumer-led instead of a manufacturing-led innovation strategy,” Mr. Benin explained.
Carrie Jones-Barber, c.e.o., of Jackson, Mich.-based Dawn Foods, said the company’s new Dawn Balance line came from market insights showing a burgeoning consumer demand for better-for-you cakes, donuts and brownies with a cleaner label.
“What we are seeing is customers want to read the label and understand what that label means to them by going to your pantry and recognizing whatever those ingredients are,” Ms. Jones-Barber said.
Moreover, the company’s Naturally Brilliant line provides ready-to-use, natural, plant-based colorings for butter-crème-style and flat icing.
“That’s exactly what our customers are asking us for,” she said.
Ms. Jones-Barber and Mr. Benin participated in a top executive panel at the American Bakers Association’s NextGenBaker Global Leadership Forum during the recent International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas. Other panelists included Daniel Servitje, chairman and chief executive officer, Grupo Bimbo, Mexico City, and Brad Alexander, chief operating officer, Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga.