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Fueled for the Future

Ethan Watters | October 5, 2023

Impact | The Originate Initiative

A glimpse into the Hormel Foods Originate Innovation Summit

Speed of New Product Development

The gathering in Kansas was the first of its kind after the company launched its Brand Fuel initiative center of excellence. Kicked off last fall, Brand Fuel is part of the company’s new strategic operating model that consolidates innovation, consumer and shopper insights, and brand diagnostics. The ultimate goal is to accelerate the time between the recognition of a new consumer insight and the creation of a new product. This new leadership structure has enabled the company to be more agile, customer-centric and market-driven. In many ways, the goal of the Innovation Summit was to ensure that leaders from across the company were continuing the Brand Fuel momentum.

“It’s been less than 12 months in this new structure, and it’s incredible the amount of progress that we’ve made in such a short period of time,” said Brian McNabb, director of corporate development, during his address at the summit. “I’m personally really excited about what it will look like over the next one to two years as these things get built out. We’re just scratching the surface on the value we are going to create.”

Scott Aakre, group vice president and chief marketing officer, retail added, “The challenge of having a really thoughtfully developed pipeline is that there’s a lot of competing initiatives, and not all of them probably can be resourced at the same time. This means we have to go through and really understand which projects have the best opportunity in the near and long term.”

Kurt Lindsey, team lead, innovation and brand design at MegaMex Foods, also shared his experience dealing with a backlog of innovation ideas. “The team undergoes an annual review, considering factors such as feasibility, alignment with the brand and potential value. This process isn’t merely about hard metrics; intuition plays a critical role. The idea-evaluation process is a mix of art and science.”

New Technologies

Artificial Intelligence and the risks and potentials of other new technologies were central to many of the discussions at the summit. There was particular interest in using new data tools to keep track of consumer insights.

According to Dave Anderko, insights lead at Hormel Foods, “We are learning how to use AI and machine learning to revamp our consumer and shopper insight approach. Instead of relying on massive surveys, we now analyze a large amount of data from sources like online reviews and social media. So, instead of a survey of over 2,000 people, we now have over 50,000 data points that will help us understand what people are looking for on a certain occasion or how they’ve used a certain product.”


It’s everyone’s job to be an innovator

Lisa Selk, senior vice president of retail, Brand Fuel

During the pandemic, teams at Hormel Foods, like at all companies, had to make do with video calls and other forms of electronic communication. While the company continued to innovate new products and processes during that time, the summit was a reminder that there is nothing like the energy of being in the same room to spark creative thinking. The dynamic collaboration that occurs when colleagues gather face-to-face is priceless. Steered by a passionate team, the Hormel Foods innovation journey is poised to continue its upward trajectory.

Lisa Selk, senior vice president of retail, Brand Fuel, left the group with a resounding mandate: “It’s everyone’s job to be an innovator,” encapsulating the shared commitment that will continue to propel Hormel Foods into the future.