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The inspirational innovation machine

Published: 23-12-2015, | Member: The Kraft Heinz Company

At Kraft Heinz, innovation is a team effort. Employees work together in the company’s innovation center featuring modern kitchens, a pilot plant, a packaging lab and an open plan office. The organization is non-hierarchical and new ideas are developed by multidisciplinary teams. Food Valley Society members got a peek behind the scenes of Kraft Heinz’s European innovation center on November 26, 2015.

“Innovation and quality are the hallmarks of our company,” said Andrea Budelli, director of R&D at Kraft Heinz. “At Kraft Heinz, innovation rests on four pillars: one, the products we develop must be profitable; two, our products have to number 1 or 2 in their category; three, our products are always top-notch quality; and four, our people are the best in their field.”

Bringing out the best
Ninety percent of Heinz’s research and development for the European market is conducted here at its European innovation center in Nijmegen. The plant, opened in 2013, was named ‘57’ after its original 1892 commercial slogan of ‘Heinz 57 varieties’. “We’re focusing on the D in R&D,” explained Budelli. “Much of our research is contracted out. That’s more efficient, because the people doing the research are experts and the labs they work in have the very best facilities.”

Kraft Heinz was the result of the spring 2015 merger of the two global food giants. Budelli talked about the benefits of the merger: “Kraft and Heinz’s product ranges are complementary. Kraft is a leader in white sauces and solid food products, while Heinz excels in red sauces and liquid food products. In terms of revenue, we’re number five worldwide and number three in the USA. Our premium brand products are sold in supermarkets in 45 countries.”

Innovation machine
“We’re giving everyone an opportunity to shine,” said Budelli about the workplace atmosphere. “A young employee with a great idea is given a lot of responsibility in our company. Our HR policy is intended to encourage talented people to be the best they can be. Also, our organization is non-hierarchical and collaboration across departments is actively encouraged. For every new project, we put together a new team. So, team composition is switched up regularly to work on new products.”

The new building was designed to facilitate encounters between employees from different departments. The open plan office encourages personal contact and no one is allowed to eat or drink at their desk; that is what the company restaurant is for. At the six cooking islands in the big kitchen, development chefs use several stoves to develop new products. The pilot plant is used to experiment with production processes, and new packaging is tested in the packaging lab. At the taste lab, an independent and well-trained tasting panel assesses the new products.

“And our policy is effective,” Budelli said proudly. “It’s been three years, and now our innovation machine is really getting up to speed. We’re about to launch a great number of innovations on the European market.” Kraft Heinz’s most recent innovation is a ketchup with 50% less sugar and 25% less salt that still tastes like traditional ketchup.

The Kraft Heinz Company