Open Innovation Accelerates Green Giant Product Innovation

Published Aug-10-13

Green Giant, a popular brand of canned and frozen vegetables works with an external supplier to develop a brand new product line.

General Mills, United States

The Story:

Open Innovation Accelerates Green Giant Product Innovation The innovation landscape has changed. There are fewer companies today that think they can go it alone or that they have a monopoly on ideas and solutions. Open innovation is moving from the margin to the mainstream, as companies test out and see for themselves how it can lead to better products in faster time frames and at lower cost.

General Mills is a company that has been a pioneer in the field of open innovation. Through its General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network (G-WIN) it is leaping over its walls to embrace and work with external knowledge sources - from suppliers to customers and companies that it might otherwise never have come across.

The initiative actively seeks innovation partners who can help it to deliver breakthrough products.

New Product Line

G-WIN has a number of open innovation success stories under its belt. One of those is the development of its Green Giant snack chips, a new product category. Collaboration with an external supplier via G-WIN allowed the company’s Green Giant brand to enter the snack aisles for the very first time.

What stands out as particularly headline-grabbing is that the trajectory from original concept to nationwide product launch took only twelve months. This is something the company says would have been impossible without open innovation.

New Thinking

Prior to G-WIN, General Mills was pretty much a closed shop when it came to innovation –secretive by nature and not readily inclined to embrace a more inclusive form of generating ideas and creating new products. That way of thinking is now firmly in its past.

Idea Sharing

One way it applies open innovation is by sharing future areas of interest with trusted members of its networks and innovation communities. In January 2012 the company invited snack manufacturer Shearer’s Foods to showcase its “ready-to-launch” ideas at an innovation show at General Mills.

Shearer’s Foods brought along ten concepts for consideration and a number of them stood out, particularly at a time when consumer appetite for vegetable snack chips was growing.

“We were impressed by the breadth of options that Shearer’s brought for our consideration,” says Jenny Mcaab, innovation entrepreneur for General Mills’ Snacks division. “Shearer’s went above and beyond by hiring an outside R&D person to develop unique products to complement our brands.”

Following the show, General Mills’ scientists worked alongside those of Shearer’s Foods. The fruits of their labors were Green Giant Roasted Veggie Tortilla Chips and Green Giant Multigrain Sweet Potato Chips.

Feedback and Launch

In June 2012, barely five months after the showcase event the new snack chips were being tested in a few selected stores across the US.

Customer feedback was a vital ingredient of the development of this new product category. Based on consumer views one of the snack chip recipes was tweaked to give it a bolder flavor. Both varieties are now available in stores.

Chalk up another win for open innovation.

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