AgroPure innovation efforts
Through the Inno Challenge, management is seeking dairy products of the future.

MONTREAL — The Canadian dairy cooperative Agropur, Montreal, has launched the Inno Challenge in partnership with the Quartier de l’innovation de Montréal, an innovation hub, AgBioCentre, an incubator, and NineSigma, an open innovation platform. The goal of the effort is to create new dairy products through open innovation.

Robert Coallier, AgroPure
Robert Coallier, c.e.o. of Agropur

“We want to tap into the collective intelligence out there to help us stay at the cutting edge of dairy production and processing,” said Robert Coallier, chief executive officer of Agropur. “This challenge will give creative types around the world an opportunity to make a meaningful, concrete contribution to the development of new products and innovative solutions.”

The Inno Challenge partners are accepting new concept proposals through Dec. 7. Those accepted will be announced in January 2017, receive a cash grant up to $25,000 and get access to Agropur’s R.&D. capabilities to help bring the concepts to a market-ready stage.

“This project also draws on Montreal’s creative ecosystem: the Quartier de l’innovation is a partner in the Challenge and will host the participants,” Mr. Coallier said.

Nicolas Marie, senior vice-president of strategic sourcing and development at Agropur, said the Inno Challenge represents a fundamental shift taking place in research and development.

Nicolas Marie, Agropur
Nicolas Marie, senior vice-president of strategic sourcing and development at Agropur

“We (Agropur) had a traditional way of innovating that was done internally,” he told Food Business News. “It was innovation we tried to keep secret until the launch. We wanted to protect the confidentiality of the innovation.

“But now, with the internet, the speed of innovation has been much faster. Where once it may have taken two years to get a product to market, now it takes 6 to 12 months. The speed to market has become faster and we needed to find new ways to innovate.”

Mr. Marie said Agropur is casting a wide net through the challenge. Submissions may be based on a finished product, new technology or new ingredients. He said the key criteria the company is looking for are the concepts need to serve a consumer need, bring uniqueness to the market and enhance the dairy product being consumed.

“We don’t want to set up barriers for the ideation process,” he said. “We want to be surprised ,and we are purposely wide in our request. We want to invent the dairy product of the future. We don’t want to even think about dairy products; it could be something for other categories.”

Nespresso machine
Nestle's launch of the Nespresso system created a different experience around coffee.

When asked for examples of new innovation that addresses a consumer need, Mr. Marie refers to Nestle’s introduction of its Nespresso system and what the single-serve beverage maker did for the coffee category.

“When Nespresso was launched it created a completely different experience around coffee,” he said. “Why can’t we have a completely different experience in dairy?”

In 2015, Agropur generated C$5.9 billion ($4.4 billion). The cooperative employs approximately 8,000 and has 38 processing plants located throughout North America. Products manufactured by the cooperative range from fluid milks, cultured products and such indulgences as ice cream, and are sold under such brands as Natrel, Iogo, Olympic, Dairytown and many others.