An ‘Innovation Gap’ occurs when the belief in the importance of food innovation for future success is present within an organisation or brand, but that same organisation or brand is not satisfied with their current level of innovation.
This gap between what they know to be important and true (i.e. where they would like to be), and what their current reality demonstrates, is an Innovation Gap, and it is prevalent across many industries, especially the Food Industry.
Food innovation is essential in our modern society where such a fast-paced world and consumer decision-making process means that brands need to keep up or risk being left behind and out of the coveted top-of-mind position for consumers.
You need to make sure that you are developing on-trend products at a pace that allows you to get to market before the trend reaches the decline stage of its life cycle.
I see the primary objective for closing the food innovation gap as investigating ways of addressing the ever-increasing demands for more safe, nutritious and affordable food to satisfy a growing population. The challenge here is in achieving this while using less land, not contributing to more waste and also aiming to reduce our environmental impact.
Now that we understand more about what the food innovation gap is, how do we go about closing it?
Firstly, it is good practice to carry out processes that will allow you to understand where you are currently at with your innovation activities in comparison to the rest of the market, for example, and also define what you would like your innovation processes to look like.
A food innovation workshop can be helpful here for helping you to generate more ideas and put them into action. It will help you clarify what you want to achieve with innovation, and understand the specific issues that can prevent you from implementing innovative strategies.
Following this first step, you can then identify the areas of your innovation processes, structures and policies (if you have them – if you don’t, you will need to create some) that can be improved, and determine the steps needed to make that happen. These don’t need to be solely located in the R&D department, innovation can be found anywhere across the organisation from the Finance department to IT, so bear that in mind when analysing your company.
It is highly unlikely that a brand will be able to close their innovation gap using the same thinking and strategies that got them to where they are today. Something needs to change somewhere along the line, and discovering what this is in the most efficient way possible is often best achieved through specific, collaborative efforts with internal or external partners.
The food industry is moving from a more traditional ‘introverted’ approach and closed-door culture to a more collaborative and extroverted mindset in the last few years, something which has been enhanced by the occurrence of the pandemic. This new mindset will hopefully allow for more open innovation to take place within food industry brands and organisations.
An open innovation culture can positively impact and encourage the people within a company, all the way from employees to C-level, to be curious, open-minded and always on the lookout for new ideas and ways of working. A good way to incorporate this is to usually work with a top-down approach, but encourage bottom-up input along the way.
One method of promoting open innovation in your organisation is to allow employees to set aside a certain amount of time per week to dedicate to brainstorming new product ideas, flavours, packaging improvements etc.
Finally, in order to encourage innovation within your brand, it is essential to also involve your customers where possible. At the end of the day, it is
your customers who will decide whether your innovations are ‘successful’ or not through purchases and repurchases, so it is important to consider their opinions and feedback in the product development process. You can do this in a variety of ways, for example, through focus groups or customer testing or tasting with prototypes.
The food industry is largely made up of smaller brands and companies falling within the SME space which makes the overall food innovation gap larger due to the limited resources and finances in the beginning of their journeys.
One of the challenges of closing the food innovation gap is the need to increase both consumer and investor confidence in the quality and safety of our food and beverage products globally.
Without investments and research time, innovation would not be possible. Equally, without consumer interest and brands who are keen to improve their products and services, for the good of the consumer, the environment, or otherwise, innovation would not exist at the level it does today.
Converging industries has allowed innovation to grow immensely and can be a key focus area for those looking to innovate through new product development.
I believe that closing the food innovation gap will lead to enhanced growth in our industry through the improvement of products, packaging, and even pricing so as to make our foods and beverages more inclusive, affordable, and better quality overall.
To make sure that you do not fall victim to the Food Innovation Gap in your company, get in touch and I will work with you to build a formal plan for success, and ensure that you develop and implement the right innovation strategies and practices for your business.
iNewtrition is an Innovation as a Service (IaaS) agency for the functional food & beverage, and health & wellness industries. We provide agile customer solutions, end-to-end support, or can simply help you overcome specific bottlenecks to fast track innovation and product development. The services and expertise we offer are on-demand and available to you instantly via our online booking platform. Our skills combined cover every step of your innovation journey, from feasibility study, product design or development, to post-launch scale-up. Contact Raphaelle at [email protected] to start your journey.