Culinology - December 2015 - (Page 36)
Cinnabon's director of R&D
finds room for innovation
Jennifer Holwill reflects on brand identity and tradition
Cinnabon was practicing culinology long before it was the
industry standard. "We've got a brand that was developed
30 years ago on an incredibly well-researched product,"
said Jennifer Holwill, the bakery's director of research and
Given Cinnabon's reputation for its
irresistible rolls, how do you meet
high expectations with new product
Jennifer Holwill: We're always striving to create menu items that are the
most craveable. That's our bar. When
we're tasting items in the kitchen, I
literally want to see someone's eyes roll
back when they're eating it. That's how
I know I have a winner.
I tend to go more for response, honestly. Because we have items that are
so craveable and they tend to be an
impulse purchase, we want someone
to have a reaction. It's got to be something that's "Oh so worth it" to someone. That's really our benchmark.
How do you balance guest expectations with innovation?
Ms. Holwill: We're leveraging differentiated attributes of our core -
36 | Culinology | DECEMBER 2015
Prior to launching in Seattle in 1985, the company set out
to create a "perfect cinnamon roll recipe" that would become its signature product.
"They really did take their time," Ms. Holwill said. She
adds that the formula has, in fact, stood the test of time.
The resulting Classic Roll recipe - sweet dough baked on
site, filled with cinnamon and brown sugar, and topped with
cream cheese frosting - would lure guests for years to come
with its signature flavor and aroma, setting the stage for
international brand growth. Today, Cinnabon operates over
1,500 franchised locations worldwide as an Atlanta-based
Focused Brands company and partners as a multi-channel
licensor, providing branded products for food service and
retail, from toaster pastries to flavored vodka.
"Once it worked, there was very little that needed to
change, except for keeping things constant and fresh. And
that's what our bakery has done over the years: deliver consistency," Ms. Holwill said.
She says it is a challenge to introduce new items, but the
company continues to evolve the brand. "We're always looking to keep moving forward beyond just that Classic Roll,"
she said. "I'm a chef and I love to work and create new
things, that's what I thrive on."
What started as a single product line has expanded into a
core menu of baked goods and specialty beverages at bakeries, along with over 60 consumer products sold at retail. Ms.
Holwill shared how she balances innovation and tradition in
Cinnabon's test kitchen.
Makara cinnamon, and our proprietary
sweet dough and signature frosting
- finding new ways to feature and
highlight those items. Our Cinnabon
Bites, Cinnabon Stix and cinnamon
roll-flavored Iced Coffee and Chillatta
are great examples that strike that balance. We definitely have our core menu
that we'll never give up on improving,
but then we do have new variety that
we want to mix into the menu.
We tend to think based on certain
platforms or dayparts, or in the different growth sectors we have. Nowadays
we're expanding beyond just the mallbased bakeries, like in travel and entertainment venues we'll develop products
specifically aligned for them. They tend
to be more savory, and portable, because we're in locations where people
are on the go.
There's so much you can do, surprisingly, with our cinnamon, dough and
frosting...but we're also working in other varieties like our Wild Berry Medleytopped MiniBon and Wild Berry frozen
What's your approach to in-house
products versus one with a collaborative licensed partner?
Ms. Holwill: We give our partners
a lot of direction up front. This way,
there's a lot less of a back and forth.
Whereas in house, we can really sit
down and come up with ideas on paper and then walk into the kitchen and
whip a bunch of stuff up, and sometimes have winners right off the bat.
From a food manufacturing standpoint, it becomes a lot more difficult.
Number one is to hold the partners to
a very high standard, and that starts
in the initial development process. We
want to make sure that we deliver the
same high quality that we deliver to our
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Culinology - December 2015
Culinology - December 2015
Table of Contents
President's Letter - A day in the life
Emerging Trends - Hot cocoa flavor heats up
Gourmet porridge trend has ancient grain appeal
Ingredient Applications - Quality over calories
LYFE – Love Your Food Everyday
Flavor Trends - Sweet heat takes flight
Member Profile - A fresh perspective
Expert Voices - Cinnabon’s director of R&D finds room for innovation
Industry News - Mile High City hosts Future of Food Conference
Industry mourns loss of chef-entrepreneur Paul Prudhomme
Petits Fours - Tacos on the menu
Mintel identifies emerging trends for 2016
Culinology - December 2015