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Meet the Innovators: Marianne Pollock

September 6, 2023

Impact | The Originate Initiative

Explore innovation from a global lens with Marianne Pollock, director of innovation for Hormel Foods International

Marianne Pollock joined the company 21 years ago and has held many positions including director of marketing, general manager Europe and international marketing manager SPAM® brand, and international marketing manager. During her time managing the SPAM® brand, she built marketing plans and campaigns for China, Japan, Australia and Canada, and she oversaw and supported efforts in the UK and Korea.

As part of her current role, she is committed to ensuring that innovation propels the company’s worldwide growth. Collaborating with executives across the globe, she helps construct product pipelines that effectively address global consumer needs and desires, while meeting ambitious growth targets. She received a postgraduate degree from Liverpool John Moores University and a master’s degree in international hotel and marketing management from Ulster University in Northern Ireland.

Q&A Marianne Pollock

Please tell us about your role at Hormel Foods and how it supports innovation efforts.

As director of innovation, my role is to support our growth around the world, and the key part of that role is to make sure we fuel that growth.

My job can be broken down into four areas. I set the vision working with our teams around the world and help them energize all their activities towards building pipelines so we can support our core business and new businesses. The second part of my role is to own and facilitate our innovation processes. For that I work with our multinationals and make sure they understand the front-end process for both retail and foodservice. I also directly support our export team by leading projects for innovation and continuous improvement (CI) across the world. And finally, my job is about building teams to support innovation, to make sure that we are successful working with our leaders beyond innovation in production, in sales and marketing, to see that execution from innovation all the way through to the consumer is done with excellence.

From your perspective working in international markets, what is the message you want our partners to understand regarding the Hormel Foods approach to innovation?

Our approach to innovation relies on three fundamentals, firstly being consumer centric. So we are unleashing the power within our global brands through consumer insights, and we make sure that our products and pipelines are working hard for both the consumer and our operators to meet them wherever they are, in home and out of home.

The second part is being culturally connected. What that means is making sure that we are locally connected and dialing in to the local needs.

And the third part is speed to market, making sure we are going from innovation to launch without fault.

Can you talk about product innovation in Asia and the value of paying attention to what’s happening in other countries?

We have a great opportunity here in Hormel Foods, to be curious about what’s going on in different parts of the world, whether it’s domestic food service or whether it’s out in China, Indonesia or elsewhere. Our global brands will really benefit if we start to think beyond our own little pockets of how we view our brands. We innovate and learn a lot to fuel our growth even faster if we’re curious and we adopt ideas from around the world faster.

What does a culture of innovation mean to you?

The culture of innovation is almost like a spirit of innovation. My role is to inspire our team and make sure that innovation is part of the growth toolbox within their brands or their business. We want to make sure people are clear about the power of innovation, that through consumer insights we can develop products that can help grow their business.

Our leaders consistently allocate ample time for both me and the team, supporting us as we venture into new product categories and expand within our core business. They engage in understanding our work and are always ready to contribute to our ongoing efforts.

Can you talk about the progress you’ve made toward your goals?

We have a unique innovation goal that we set over two and a half years ago for international. Forty percent of our net sales will come from innovation by 2025, and we’re making great progress toward that. In fact, last year we delivered 30% when four years ago we were sitting at just 12%. We expect to hit our 40% target by 2025.

What projects are you excited about for the next two to four years?

We’re building out several pipelines that are very exciting. Firstly, we are building out the SPAM® brand. It’s our biggest international brand. We know that as a canned product it’s very successful and we expect that business to continue to grow. However, out of home and late-night snacking are two new white spaces where we are developing pipelines and testing across multiple countries to make sure that SPAM® products are available for any time of day, not just breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The second is about snacking. We have a whole portfolio of meat and non-meat snacks. We’re starting to understand universal acceptance of those different products, whether it’s our Skippy® brand snacks or the Garudafood portfolio that we have with our joint venture in Indonesia. We also have our meat snacks that we’ve developed in China, and we have our Planters® and our Corn Nuts® brands. We have an opportunity to map out how we can build those portfolios and implement them around the world.

Our third thing is foodservice. We’re building high-growth categories in China, across Brazil, and Indonesia, and with our export business. We’re bringing portfolios in and building one-by-one bacon toppings, entertaining snacks, and we’re also looking at pepperoni. We’re aiming to expand on those opportunities to make sure that we are exciting operators and educating them on these great products that will help their menus be innovative.