Recession and innovation – 10 top tips

By Rod Addy contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food innovation solutions, Innovation

Food and drink businesses should focus on continuous improvement, over-invest in consumer insight and view innovation as accountable at a profit and loss level to help safeguard innovation in a recession.

That’s the view of Mike Faers, director at Food Innovation Solutions, which advises major grocery retail and manufacturing clients on product development.

In all, Faers outlined to FoodManufacture.co.uk 10 top tips for innovating in a recession. They are:

  • get your core offer relevant and optimised with continuous improvement programmes;
  • be ruthless with your resource and portfolio management – decide what you are going to stop doing;
  • weight your resources and budgets according to the corporate plan, seeking innovation aggressively in these strategic areas;
  • over-invest in consumer insights and needs – be operationally smart, look for the synergies and make the most of what you already know;
  • over-invest in training, up-skilling and recruiting the best people;
  • create ‘the burning platform’ – the need for change in people who don’t recognise it;
  • measure the success – ensure all stakeholders are aware of expectations and the criteria for success;
  • remove from the organisation process, system and cultural blockages;
  • innovation is a commercial function and should be accountable at profit and loss level;
  • manage the portfolio across the spectrum and look forward a minimum of five years

‘Innovation among top three priorities’​ 

“According to McKinsey’s quarterly Global Survey, 70% of corporate leaders say innovation is among their top three priorities for driving growth,”​ said Faers. 

“They also say the most important drivers for good innovation are their own people. However, only 34% of top managers say innovation is part of their leadership team’s regular agenda.”​ 

Companies where top managers said innovation was their most important priority were different to other firms in that they often used innovation-related metrics in performance reviews, he said. 

Add dramatically to product innovation​ 

Packaging could add dramatically to product innovation, he claimed. “Intelligent packaging will be a real differentiator in the next decade with food waste already a government issue and rapidly becoming a consumer one.”​ He cited the example of microbial films that inhibited spoilage. 

Faers warned that while many food businesses sought to value-engineer in a tough economy, seeking to produce goods as cheaply as possible, they should do the opposite. 

“For example within the meat industry, we have seen the price of mince rise dramatically as the cheaper dishes like shepherd’s pie are in greater demand, with premium burgers replacing steak.​ 

“So let’s look at a different way of innovating by using retro and forgotten cuts such as pigs and ox cheeks, which can be bought for a cheap price compared to lean mince, yet are a far superior cut …”

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