Rethinking the approach to food product development

Food Innovation Solutions expert Mike Faers explains how companies can rethink their approach to food product development.

26 July 2018

Meet the Expert

Who: Mike Faers

What: MD and CEO

Where: Food Innovation Solutions & Good Sense Research


Innovation within the food and beverage industry is facing a perfect storm and we need to reimagine how we successfully deliver profitable growth from it. What we have considered best practice for the last 20 years is, in my opinion, no longer fit for purpose.

We are constantly bombarded by articles about how artificial intelligence is going to solve our issues. It is not. However, I believe a Reimagined Rapid Innovation (RRI) approach can, which I have outlined below,.

At Food Innovation Solutions (FIS) & Good Sense Research, we work with global FMCG brand businesses through to entrepreneurial start-ups, and ironically, both seek what the other has got.

Global businesses seek agility and the return on investment (ROI) from accelerated and cost-effective innovation, while entrepreneurs seek the scale and customer base of the global businesses.

Taking learnings from both it is possible to develop a completely new way of reimagining the innovation process, which means we need consumer-driven thinking combined with operationally smart execution.

A perfect storm: the negatives

  • Product life cycles are accelerating exponentially and will continue to do so, yet typical project timelines are static at around 18-36 months – and that means it is expensive and too slow to be relevant.
  • ROI from innovation is diminishing and frustration in boardrooms increasing as organisations’ ability to deliver is fettered.
  • Processes are not enabling and can be a clear deterrent to innovation by being slow, incremental and ponderous. The commonly used Stage-Gate process for product development is a broken concept – conceived in the 1950s for NASA. It has little relevance to innovation today, but is more of a tool for environmental product declaration (EPD) and portfolio management.
  • Agility is a manufacturing myth after 20 years of lean thinking – disruptive thinking is not evident. Expensive centralised functions are siloed, not customer driven, and manufacturing shackles clearly restrict thinking
  • No defined targets/success criteria are set for innovation to change internal behaviours and cultures
  • Reinvesting profit in innovation is clearly discretionary spend in times of reducing margins and skills shortage – this is the innovation team’s issue to solve by creating clear and compelling concepts.
  • Increasing and rapid ‘ripping off’ of new concepts that are difficult to protect is a disincentive to innovation.

It’s not all stormy weather: the positives

  • Consumers are still seeking out newness and reward it with premium pricing.
  • Experiential thinking, not solely product, is key to delivering profitable customer experience – this is largely untapped in our industry.
  • Traditional sales channels and segmentations are becoming increasingly irrelevant with delivery and technology companies leading the way. Again, our industry is not exploiting this effectively.
  • Dynamic and entrepreneurial micro food and beverage industry with an abundance of innovation exists if you know where to look and can translate the essences of the ideas.

Reimagining innovation

By taking the learnings from the positives and negatives, it is possible to create new models of working. At FIS, we’ve created reimagined rapid innovation (RRI), which has three core elements: identify, prototype and commercialise.

It addresses some of the major problems that companies face with innovation today using consumer insight, a rapid development cycle and a system of ranked opportunities to identify commercial potential.

Ultimately, spending more than a year to take a product from concept to shelf is far too long in today’s retail environment – especially when it could be happening within three months.


If you would like to know more about RRI and how it can transform your innovation planning and performance, contact Mike Faers (

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