Open Innovation Cooks up New Frozen Vegetables Line
General Mills taps into its open innovation ecosystem to develop a new line of sauce-free seasoned frozen vegetables.
General Mills and Burley Foods, United States
General Mills is one of the leading practitioners of open innovation, a multinational corporation that has worked with innovators beyond its walls for a number of years. Its primary focus is on food products and one of its successful brands is the Green Giant range.
Growth Plans for Green Giant
This popular make of canned and frozen vegetables has been served up on dinner plates for more than 100 years. In early 2011 General Mills started to look at innovating the brand with vegetables that don't require the addition of sauce or butter. Customer feedback was that plain vegetables are boring and elaborate vegetable dishes are too time-consuming to prepare.
Open Innovation Portal
General Mills’ R&D staff could have taken on the project themselves, experimenting with formulations and flavor combinations. However, as they have discovered on numerous occasions in the past, working with world-class innovators from outside the company can give them efficient and effective access to a specific pool of expertise.
The General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network (G-WIN) is an open innovation site that actively seeks external knowledge to partner with to create new products and accelerate innovation. Through this online portal the Fortune 500 company located Burley Foods, an ingredients supplier to food manufacturers.
Burley was already on General Mills’ radar having previously demonstrated a number of recipes and vegetable blends to some of its R&D scientists, marketing managers, consumer insights experts and other departments.
“From the very first presentation, we were excited about how Burley brought new ideas to life, while really thinking about how the prototype offerings complemented our existing product portfolio,” said Kate Gallager, Green Giant R&D manager.
"The culinary knowledge of Burley’s chef provided the expertise we needed to bring more complex seasonings and unique vegetable pairings to Green Giant.”
Together, Burley and General Mills looked at recipe ideas and refined the most promising ones, to come up with a chef-inspired lineup of frozen vegetables. Green Giant® Seasoned Steamers™. There are six unique flavor varieties, three of which were derived from the recipes initially presented by Burley. The line includes a blend of corn and peppers with a touch of honey, and brussel sprouts seasoned with sea salt and cracked pepper.
Open Innovation Partnerships
By pursuing open innovation together, both General Mills and Burley Foods are reaping the rewards. In his book ‘Making Open Innovation Work’ Stefan Lindegaard writes about how big and small companies can benefit when they meet on equal terms and create win-win scenarios for all players. The development of Seasoned Streamers is a good illustration of this and could lead to further food product innovations. The two companies are continuing to work together to explore new opportunities.
According to Mike Burley, owner of Burley Foods: “With the transparent clarity we received from General Mills’ marketing and R&D personnel, our Burley Foods team was able to leverage and guide the vast culinary and technical resources of our suppliers to find innovative ingredient solutions and arrive at the desired end product in record-pace time. We believe this model and our partnership with General Mills will be the blueprint for success in the future.”
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