Spicing Up The Product Innovation Process

Turning Up the Heat

A leading manufacturer of cooking oils, spices, seasonings, and baking ingredients, the ACH Food Companies’ product lineup is led by well-known food brands that are in nearly every pantry in America – brands such as Mazola (the #1 corn oil brand in North America), Argo corn starch, Fleischmann’s yeast, and Spice Islands seasonings. The company had traditionally focused on the food service and food ingredients markets, but had recently decided to adopt a new consumer-facing business model following the acquisition of several consumer food brands. The move into the consumer market opened up a plethora of new opportunities for ACH, but this shift also required the redesign of the firm's product innovation process.

With new product launches and expansions into new markets as primary drivers of growth for consumer brands, ACH’s product development processes needed to become faster and more agile to accommodate the rapid pace of the consumer market. Critical to this effort would be overhauling the company’s product innovation processes.

ACH hired Vivaldi seeking to enhance the existing innovation processes and ensure that innovations with the best chance for success would be launched in a swift timeframe. This included benchmarking ACH’s existing Stage-Gate process against best-in-class processes, creating new success criteria, defining the hurdles that ACH should set for itself, refining processes, charters, and templates, and creating a training and organizational action plan. The stakes were high. Enhancing ACH’s Stage-Gate process would help to focus innovation efforts, provide discipline and efficiency for cross-functional product launch teams, prioritize projects, effectively manage innovation resources, and identify points of pain.

Vivaldi did a really nice job bringing forward state-of-the-art thinking in terms of innovation processes, and then right-sizing it for us so that we wouldn’t lose our agility and responsiveness to changes in the marketplace.

George Pastrana, CMO, ACH Foods

A Soup-To-Nuts Review

The Vivaldi team applied a “Funnel-to-Tunnel” approach to help improve the existing process.

The team started by auditing the existing ACH Stage-Gate system, gathered best-in-class practices both from within and outside of the packaged food industry, compared the ACH process to industry best practices and provided a fit-gap analysis assigning comparative ratings and relative importance, and recommended areas of focus to determine priority actions.

To improve the Stage-Gate process, we then created a strategy to implement portfolio management techniques, defined metric categories and specific criteria for each state, and documented process guidelines and timelines. We also defined go/no-go criteria for each Gate, developed and updated key supporting materials, and defined roles and responsibilities for cross-functional team members.

Finally, we created a high-level training plan, prescribed recommendations on how to incorporate the overall innovation approach into organizational thinking, recommended revisions for knowledge share systems, communicated and educated ACH employees via presentations and workshops in concert with the management team.

Success required a rethinking of the organization’s fundamental beliefs about innovation. Less really can be more if you take an incredibly focused and disciplined approach to target setting, success criteria, project tracking, idea generation, early screening, concept development, project handovers, and even meeting structures.

Philip Ryan, Associate Partner, Vivaldi Edge

An Innovation Approach That’s Anything But Cookie Cutter

As a result of our work, ACH was able to make wholesale changes to the company’s innovation process. Our guidelines on process flow, meeting execution and decision-making criteria at each Gate, the templates for charters, scorecards, presentations and other supporting documents and ur comprehensive list of metrics improved portfolio management and project type at every Stage-Gate.

We advised ACH on team composition, roles and responsibilities and provided a high-level training plan and guidelines, recommendations on enrolling the organization to the Stage-Gate process, and revision recommendations on knowledge share systems.

Today, the former commercial food manufacturer is a flourishing mogul of the consumer products food market and ACH’s streamlined Stage-Gate process allows their product development team to get products from idea to market much faster than they used to.

Meet The Expert

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Larry Lucas

Senior Partner

Larry Lucas is a Senior Partner at Vivaldi. He brings over twenty years of experience in brand management and helping his clients achieve their growth objectives through practical, actionable marketing. Larry has helped his clients build portfolio growth strategies, brand positioning, customer experience strategy, new product concept creations, as well as broader organizational marketing capability development.