Food Business News - March 22, 2016 - (Page 13)

development, Mr. Young said. "What we've really learned is the speed-to-market; when you are truly mission- and purpose-driven, it gives you a lens for every decision you make, and you can make them fast when that's the case," he said. "We move faster. In the past, we may have said, 'Well, we'd better research this; we'd better test this.' What we're doing now is saying, 'We know this is right. We're going to go.'" Critical to fostering growth in a brand like Annie's or Epic is allowing its leaders to retain autonomy in decisionmaking, Mr. Young said. "We don't want to buy these businesses and kiss the old team that was running it goodbye," he said. "That's not how we operate anymore. We want to grow with these people, so part of what we look for is a talented team, who are mission-driven and purposeled in what they do, good business people, good partners." Epic is operated under the Annie's division at General Mills, with Mr. Foraker helping to guide and grow the business. "What are we doing with Epic?" Mr. Foraker said. "Katie and Taylor are running it. We're leaving it in Austin... We're solving the problems they have, like helping them improve quality, and getting behind the mission. "We're just giving them what they need and getting out of the way." FBN Alexia Foods homes in on hot potato trends ANAHEIM, CALIF. - Some of the most successful product innovation at Alexia Foods has made its research and development team a little uncomfortable. "Even if it's not something we've ever done before, even if it's something that's not necessarily in our wheelhouse from a capability standpoint, even if it's something we're a little uncomfortable with, sometimes that's where the best ideas come from," said Rob Johnson, senior brand manager for Alexia Foods, a business unit of Omaha-based ConAgra Foods, Inc. Alexia Foods was established in 2002 by founder and chef Alex Dzieduszycki and acquired by ConAgra Foods in 2007. The company harvests its russet, red and gold potatoes on farms in the Pacific Northwest using sustainable farming methods. Beyond potato products, the brand also offers baked appetizers, artisan breads and organic frozen vegetables. Recently, the company committed to transitioning all of its offerings to Non-GMO Project verification over the next year. Currently, 90% of the brand's portfolio has been March 22, 2016 verified, Mr. Johnson said. "We just have a couple of additional items that we have to run through the process and do ingredient sourcing on just to make sure that everything's non-G.M.O.," he said in an interview with Food Business News. At Natural Products Expo West, held March 10-13 in Anaheim, the company showcased new organic sweet potato fries and crispy rosemary fries. Inspiration for the crispy rosemary fries, which are shoestring-cut white potatoes seasoned with rosemary and sea salt, came from restaurant industry trends. "We noticed a lot of higherend restaurants were doing rosemary type seasonings or toppings on fries, so we started investigating how that might work for Alexia, and we were able to come up with this product," Mr. Johnson said. Alexia Foods regularly tracks flavor trends in food service and retail to guide product development, Mr. Johnson said. "One of things we're seeing a lot of is fries being topped with various things in restaurants," he said. "We spend a lot of time focused on what types of flavors our consumers are interested in these days. Is it ethnic flavors, spicy flavors, things that haven't quite hit the mainstream yet? One of the things we looked at is tajin, which is a savory lime seasoning that you put on fruit. It's popular in Mexico and some other South American countries. We don't necessarily have plans for that specifically, but that's just an example of the type of thing we like to keep close watch on." The next step in product development is ensuring the availability of ingredients. One challenge Alexia Foods faces in product development is procuring large quantities of organic and non-bioengineered ingredients, Mr. Johnson said. "There are times we have had to go back to the drawing board because organic dairy ingredients, as an example, are tough to source and have a really long lead time," Mr. Johnson said. From there, the product concept moves on to consumer testing. "I would say we have a pretty good track record thus far," Mr. Johnson said. "We haven't kicked out very many products after our consumer test phase. I guess we're lucky in the sense that everybody likes french fries, and there's a lot you can do with a french fry that consumers are going to like." Products in development are designed to replicate the restaurant experience, Mr. Johnson said. "How do you take something popular outside the U.S. and share it with the American palate?" he said. "Again, poutine is a good example, (but) it's really hard to deliver that type of a french fry experience in a frozen state. We're not necessarily working on poutine specifically, but that's a good example of the next frontier, something we're trying to get figured out." FBN FOODBUSINESS NEWS ® 13

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Food Business News - March 22, 2016

Food Business News - March 22, 2016
Chipotle continues to struggle
G.M.O. labeling: Back to the drawing board?
Dairy Business News - Picking the right fruits, nuts and seeds
Table of Contents
Web Contents
Editorial - Food industry faces challenges as obesity rate rises
General Mills invests in organic cottage cheese maker
Natural Products Expo West - When big companies buy small brands
Alexia Foods homes in on hot potato trends
What’s popping at Angie’s Boomchickapop
Four trends driving growth in organic
Kraft Heinz impressing investors
Wal-Mart revamping fresh food strategy
Target focused on the fundamentals of fresh
Science, safety and seaweed
Market Insight - Wheat, corn, soybeans: Which one will lead?
Flavor Trends - Beyond sriracha
Ingredient Innovations - Reducing the ‘ates’ in meat applications
New Food Products
Ingredient Market Trends - Millers forecast soft red winter wheat crop at 362 million bus
Ingredient Markets
Supplier Innovations and News
Ad Index
Food Business in the News

Food Business News - March 22, 2016