Innovation may be the most overused descriptor in the food industry today, but unlike the buzzwords that have come, gone and unfortunately remain, it still has real meaning.
While phrases like paradigm shift or bandwidth make many people roll their eyes, the act of innovation truly affects profit and loss.
According to a new study from Dow Corning, perceptions regarding who is primarily responsible for innovation have expanded from the lab to include all employees. More than a third of survey respondents (37 percent) said they are counting on all employees, not just the head of science and technology, to advance innovation.
The top-ranked factor when describing suppliers as innovators was having an "intimate understanding of what customers want and need." When identifying the single biggest challenge facing business today, 36 percent of respondents cited lower-cost competitors. Other challenges included new market development and rising energy costs.
Thirty-two percent of respondents in Europe feel that innovation is by far the single biggest challenge facing their businesses today. Only 10 percent of respondents in the Americas and Asia named innovation as their top challenge.
The Dow Corning study represented a cross-section of managers and professionals in manufacturing companies in the Americas, Asia and Europe. Unfortunately food and beverage manufacturers were not enlisted as part of the study. As I see it and as Food Engineering intelligence-gathering continues to show, innovation is the number one priority of our readers.
Despite the absence of our industry, I think those in food and beverage manufacturing would have to agree on the study findings of the characteristics of innovative companies:
constantly strive to improve existing products; invent new technologies; do what is necessary to solve customers' problems; constantly bring new products to the market; make technology easier/cheaper to use; partner with other companies; and are usually the best known ones.
No buzzwords appear in the above paragraph. And that's exactly the point. Action not empty talk produces results, regardless of industry.