Inside Tyson Foods' innovation strategy

by Keith Nunes
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Hillshire Snacking products are among a number of new launches for Tyson Foods in the coming year.

NEW YORK — Describing Tyson Foods’ innovation team as “kids in a candy shop” following the company’s acquisition of Hillshire Brands, Sally Grimes, president and global growth officer for the company, outlined the insights driving innovation at the company and highlighted some of the new products on tap for 2015 during Tyson’s investor day, held Dec. 10 in New York.

Ms. Grimes said four growth platforms the company is focusing on revolve around breakfast, convenience, snacking and “holistic wellness.”

“The first is what we call breakfast reinvented,” she said. “Now over half of consumers want more options for frozen and refrigerated breakfast. So, this one is all about convenient, complete options to start the day right.”

In 2015, Tyson Foods will introduce Jimmy Dean Simple Scrambler’s, which Ms. Grimes described as a “new category in refrigerated breakfast.” She added that the new product will offer a “fresh, complete breakfast made in minutes.”

“The next one we call ‘smart shortcuts,’” she said. “Americans spend just 27 minutes per day total on meal prep. So this platform is all about delivering higher quality, more unique meals without all the prep.

“The third one we call purposeful snacking. Twenty-five per cent of consumers today are searching for protein on food labels and snacking has evolved from incidental to purposeful, to satisfy cravings, to keep going in between meals and support overall health. So this is our platform for portable protein.”

To capitalize on the demand for portable protein, Tyson Foods will be introducing Ball Park branded jerky in 2015.

“We are excited to build on our presence in the jerky category, leveraging the strong approachable equity of Ball Park to disrupt the fast-growing on trend jerky category,” Ms. Grimes said. “Now this is big, the Ball Park brand benefits from high awareness, a consumer base who likes dried snacks and equity around flame grilled taste. We are confident that Ball Park will grow the jerky category by broadening jerky appeal with flame grilled jerky because meat from the grill just tastes better.”

Ms. Grimes added that the Hillshire Snacking line of products will roll out nationally in 2015.

“It has been in test market for six months with strong performance,” Ms. Grimes said. “And it is ready to roll out nationally. Hillshire snacking has not only delivered incremental sales to the category, but it has exceeded the competition in test retailers for both incrementality of sales and overall size.”

When it was test marketed, the Snacking line featured two varieties, one featuring Italian salami or hot Calabrese salami with cheese and crackers. The second variety featured grilled meats in such flavors as sweet chili, honey mustard or teriyaki.

The final growth platform Tyson is focused on is holistic wellness, which Ms. Grimes said features “nutritious products for the most disciplined consumers across all day parts.”

Next year Tyson Foods plans to expand its Aidells line of processed meats into the breakfast category with the launch of two new chicken sausages that feature such infusions as apple or maple. Ms. Grimes said the launch is designed to complement the Aidells line of chicken lunchmeat and meatballs that are currently in the marketplace.

Ms. Grimes also took time in her presentation to delve into the macro market forces she said are shaping Tyson’s new product development strategy.

“First, the changing face of the consumer,” she said. “Today, only 20% of U.S. households are a married couple with children. And millennials are 27% of the U.S. — this is the biggest demographic in our history.

“Next, altered shopping habits — Spending is up but shoppers are making fewer trips spread across more stores, formats and channels.”

She added that eating itself is evolving, specifically the “what, the when and the how consumers are eating is changing,” Ms. Grimes said. “Nearly one-third of dinners today are eaten alone. And long gone are three square meals a day. The average American actually eats 4.9 meals per day. And our on-the-go lifestyles, they are just leading us to fundamentally change the way we eat.”

Finally, Ms. Grimes noted the continued economic challenges facing consumers are shaping Tyson Foods’ innovation strategies when she highlighted the fact that six in 10 households in the United States make less than $50,000 per year.

“We actually don’t have one innovation pipeline at Tyson, we have many pipelines,” Ms. Grimes said. “One of the greatest assets of this company is our diverse portfolio of category leading brands. We won’t just deliver new products, but a strategic sustainable pipeline of innovation for each of our brands to drive growth.”
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READER COMMENTS (2)

By Kathy O'Shaughnessy 12/15/2014 9:34:09 AM
Great article

By Dan Geocaris 12/15/2014 9:33:15 AM
Great article