Food Entrepreneur - February 15, 2022 - 3

FOOD ENTREPRENEUR®
COMMENTARY
Reconsidering innovation
in the midst of uncertainty
It may be okay to pause new product development right now
BY MONICA WATROUS
S
uccessful innovation is difficult to achieve even
during the best of times. It is made much more
difficult in the midst of a global pandemic that has
compounded the number of uncontrollable factors that
may hinder a product launch.
" Depending on whose statistics you believe, somewhere
between 60% to 90% of all innovation in food and
beverage fails within two years, " said Jeff Grogg, founder
and managing director of JPG Resources, Battle Creek,
Mich. " If you're going to be innovative, you're going to
have some misses. "
These are far from ideal times for innovators. A supply
chain crisis precipitated by the pandemic is creating
significant headwinds for early-stage brands that lack the
scale and resources to compete with established companies.
" Small
companies are having trouble sometimes
even getting calls with retailers, and it comes down to
the retailers are experiencing a lot of smaller brands are
struggling to deliver, especially innovation and especially
new stuff, " Mr. Grogg said during a presentation at the
Winter Fancy Food Show on Feb. 7 in Las Vegas. " They're
managing their own pain and their own struggles, and
they want to have full shelves. "
In the face of uncertainty, it may be prudent to pause
innovation. Mr. Grogg pointed to Elon Musk, co-founder
and chief executive officer of Tesla, Inc. and " the most hyperactive
innovator of our time, " who recently announced
the car maker won't introduce new models this year due
to a global automotive chip shortage.
" It's okay to not be pushing innovation right now, "
Mr. Grogg said. " Focus on your core if you need to. Focus
on cutting your SKUs. Focus on getting lean. Focus on
winning where you play. "
Amid complexity, product developers should embrace
simplicity " in
your process, in your
product, and how you
get to market, " he
said. Now is not the
time to launch " some
frou-frou way-outthere
thing, " he added.
Consumer data
may offer enticing
insights, but it may
also be distracting
and misleading. A
product should meet
a clear market need
Monica Watrous is the managing
editor of Food Business News.
Email: mwatrous@sosland.com.
February 15, 2022
©BILLIONPHOTOS.COM - STOCK.ADOBE.COM
and align with the brand. If it doesn't, brand managers
should move on - and celebrate that decision.
" One of the hardest things to do within an organization
is to stop something you've invested work into, " Mr.
Grogg said. " The concept of sunk capital is very hard for
anyone to deal with... At some point, you need to be able
to go, 'This isn't right. This isn't going to work.' ... You
need to pull the plug, regardless of the work you've done
so far. There's no reason to continue to pursue that. You
need to reward your team for making the tough call. "
Creating a culture of innovation within an organization
requires building trust and openness, rooting
out toxicity and fear, inviting diverse perspectives and
encouraging input from everyone.
" If innovation only exists in marketing you're getting
a very limited lens, " he said.
In new product development, Mr. Grogg said, " right
is better than fast. " Brands often hurl a concept to market
to outpace competitors and generate feedback for later
iterations. The " minimum viable product " model that
originated in the technology industry is not the best
approach for food and beverage brands, especially right
now, Mr. Grogg said.
" Companies use that as an excuse to launch stuff that
isn't good enough, " he said. " I would encourage you not
to do that... It's got to taste good. It's got to be something
people want, and too often we rush and don't get good
outcomes. "
No two companies are identical, and it's certain
that not every business has the luxury of time businesses
like Mr. Musk's enjoy. Still, many successful
entrepreneurs in difficult situations find ways to " slow
burn " their way to a more opportune moment. It's an approach
that deserves close consideration in the present
environment. ▪
Food Business News
39
The 'minimum
viable product'
model is not the
best approach for
food and beverage
brands.
http://www.BILLIONPHOTOS.COM http://STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Food Entrepreneur - February 15, 2022

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