Innovation: Purpose, People, & Process

By Susan Mayer MS CFS, Innovation Advisor- Food & Agriculture Lead and Lawrence C. Blume PhD, Sr Innovation Advisor

While everything around us has changed in the past year, as innovation advisors our purpose remains unchanged, as it has for over 50 years.

We continue to ensure clients achieve greater innovation maturity. From helping manufacturers and ingredient suppliers uncover white space opportunities across their value chain, to forming strategic partnerships that yield technical advances, and linking consumer insights to new product development opportunities–we solve our clients’ toughest innovation challenges.

What’s the secret to our more than 50 years of success? Our people and our intelligence process.

Similar to any superior intelligence process, we start with an open mind. From there, we road-map potential solution options–obvious or not. Often, we use design-centered approaches to assess and validate clients’ potential opportunities and possible challenges.

Are you familiar with the hit show Shark Tank? In the show celebrity investors use a venture capitalist intelligence process and ask:

  • Does the solution meet consumer desire?
  • Is the solution technically feasible?
  • Are the business and team viable, and able to succeed?

As innovation advisors, we apply a similar lens of thinking. While the return to our clients is not a big payday — at least not directly in the short term — the return is just as, if not more, valuable: a clearly articulated strategy that prioritizes R&D investments.

Our global food and beverage company client believed fermented products could be a viable business for them. The organization needed our expertise to answer :

  • What do current products tell us about consumer desires, both taste and health benefits?
  • What processing technology is feasible to deliver the desired products, and who owns the intellectual property in this space?

We identified several viable partners and technologies to produce unique products supported by consumer-desired structure-function claims.

Consumers desire fewer ingredients on labels and they want those ingredients to be familiar. Manufacturers and ingredient suppliers are seeking ways to clean up labels. This includes reducing the number of ingredients and removing unfriendly ones.

One challenging area is texture and stability — often provided by hydrocolloids and gums which some consumers don’t want on the labels.

Our client wanted to know:

  • What consumer-friendly ingredients are feasible replacements for hydrocolloids and gums?
  • What process changes could be used in place of these ingredients?
  • How viable are these options, considering ingredient costs, capital investment, and the state of the technology?

We identified feasible ingredients and processing technologies that showed promise in removing texturizing agents or as processing aids. Collectively these solutions unlocked technical challenges that deliver on consumers’ desires for minimally processed foods with short ingredient lists.

Undoubtedly, you’ve come across a product that promotes gut and digestive health by improving your body’s microbiome. We collaborated with an international food group to help them understand this rapidly emerging space.

Our client wanted to know:

  • What do consumers desire from these products? What benefits do consumers expect?
  • What are feasible benefits that these products can deliver? What technologies are needed to deliver these benefits?
  • What claims are viable so that they meet regulatory requirements AND are impactful to consumers?

Using our intelligence process, we determined that the research on the influence of the microbiome on health is in its infancy. Thus structure-function ingredient claims will require additional R&D. We recommended potential partners for product development and storyline creation to convey the benefits of a healthy microbiome to drive consumer interest.

We look forward to another great year of working with clients and positioning them as savvy investors in innovation who expand their businesses. And if you’ve not yet worked with us and want to learn more, we’d love to hear about your organization and your innovation challenges.

Susan Mayer, MS CFS is our technical food industry lead, with great problem-solving, strategic, and communication skills. Our clients rely on her experience in product development, product lifecycle management, and public-private food industry partnerships to understand how technology, research, and the right suppliers can create innovation opportunities.

Lawrence Blume, PhD., is passionate about collaborative partnerships that bring innovative solutions to challenging research and development roadblocks. A lead advisor for our food science and biotechnology innovation, Lawrence brings extensive experience leading technology-focused opportunity forecasts in support of competitive advantage, product differentiation, and commercialization strategies for C-level executives at companies ranging from early startups to Fortune 500s.

RTI Innovation Advisors helps clients turn insights into new products, services & technologies that have meaningful human and business impact. Feed of RTI Int’l