Dispatches from the 6th Annual Food Technology & Innovation Forum, 2012, Chicago

Quote/Unquote: Heinz on rocking the boat, Coca-Cola on backing the right horse in beverages, why we’re really fat and how Jane Fonda helped one brand go viral …

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Delegates heard from R&D bosses at leading brands from Hershey to Heinz, Chobani, Nestle, Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson and Coca-Cola
Delegates heard from R&D bosses at leading brands from Hershey to Heinz, Chobani, Nestle, Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson and Coca-Cola
If you didn’t make it to Chicago for the Food Technology and Innovation Forum last week – or were too busy speed-dating with suppliers in the exhibition hall to attend the conference - we’ve rounded up some of the best bits…

McDonald’s on why it ditched lean finely textured beef…

“It is perfectly safe, but there was a bad perception about it and we decided to stop using it. There is more to selling than just science. If people don’t want it, there is a reason to take it out. Maybe it sounds cowardly but this was a business decision.”  Dr Brinda Govindarajan, director scientific affairs and policy, McDonald’s

Heinz on why it’s important to go out on a limb sometimes…

“No one is going to fire you for having good ideas. If you don’t rock the boat, how are you going to navigate turbulent waters?”  Dr Michael Okoroafor, VP global packaging innovation and execution, Heinz

…although innovation does not have to be rocket science

“We’re in the food business, not rocket science. But we’ve sold 1bn packs of ​[new product format for foodservice] Dip & Squeeze. We didn’t meddle with the formula ​[of Heinz ketchup], look what happened with New Coke. We just changed the delivery mechanism. It’s going back to what our founder said - doing the common thing uncommonly well.”  Dr Michael Okoroafor, VP global packaging innovation and execution, Heinz

Coca-Cola on backing the right horse in beverages

“The sweet spot for us is brands that have been in business for at least two years and are in the $10-50m range in sales. Then you’re on our radar.”  Scott Uzzell, VP and General Manager, Emerging Brands Incubation for Venturing and Emerging Brands, Coca-Cola 

Going viral (courtesy of Jane Fonda)

“A couple of years ago we were promoting our products in Manhattan Beach and Jane Fonda shows up and takes a sample… Later that day she blogged about it and within days the shelves were empty… People are going online to find out about products and share experiences and it’s happening at an incredibly accelerated rate…”  Reno Rollé, CEO, BOKU International

Is the price differential between brands and private label closing?

“Store brands used to be 40% cheaper than national brands. Now they are about 25% cheaper, and the gap is closing - during the recession it was more like 21%.” Dr Richard Volpe, research economist, USDA Economic Research Service

How does a recession impact private label products?

“Private label has been gaining and gaining for 30 years - every time you have a recession, it gains one percentage point of market share, and then it stays where it is, then you have another recession and it goes up again, and when it rises, it doesn’t fall back again.” Brian Sharoff, president, PLMA

Are we fat because we just lose track of how much we’re eating?

“Fast food is not bad. Bad fast food is bad. The problem is that we just lose track of how much we eat, and portions have got bigger and bigger. One way to lose weight is to just write down what you actually eat. It gives you the ability to say no. You can say look what I’ve already eaten...” Dr Jim Painter,  Professor, School of Family and Consumer Sciences Eastern Illinois University 

 

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