By Stefan Palzer
Chief Technology Officer Nestlé S.A.
The food and beverage industry is transforming rapidly. Smaller, more agile and fast moving start-ups are challenging larger companies. Consumer needs are also evolving. There is a demand for healthier, natural and more authentic products.
At Nestlé, our success is founded on over 150 years of experience in anticipating consumer trends while strategically innovating for the future.
Leveraging our R&D capabilities
We invest around 1.7 billion Swiss francs (1.7 billion US dollars) every year in research and development, more than any of our competitors worldwide.
We have around 5000 people working in our global research network. To change our mind-set in terms of how we innovate, we have implemented 'internal start-ups'. This encourages our scientists to think like entrepreneurs, by exploring novel ideas that lead to ground-breaking discoveries.
To strengthen our capabilities, we collaborate with academic institutions, non-government organizations, start-ups and innovation partners across the world.
Increasing our speed
Having great ideas is important, but the real opportunity lies in how fast you can get them to consumers. To launch new products quickly, we are using fast prototyping and leveraging our size and scale for quick in-market testing. In the past 12 months alone, we have introduced around 1500 new products around the world.
In coffee for example, our teams launched the new Nescafé Azera Nitro in less than 15 months. Using 3D printing, the packaging was rapidly developed and industrialized. This smooth, nitrogen infused cold coffee is available on tap in bars and cafes, as well as in cans for consumption at home or on the go.
Similarly, our success in launching the KitKat Ruby in just 6 months speaks to our speed and innovation agility. The crispy four-finger wafer bar is coated with ruby chocolate, a fourth type of chocolate after dark, milk and white. We were able to bring this breakthrough innovation to life quickly, through our partnership with Swiss chocolatier Barry Callebaut, making us the first major brand to feature this new chocolate.
Addressing consumer trends
When it comes to understanding our consumers, we remain at the forefront of the industry. By identifying consumer trends early, we are able to adjust our portfolio accordingly.
For example, we have capitalized on vegan and vegetarian trends through leveraging our classic brands that consumers know and trust. We have everything from non-dairy creamers and ice cream in the US, to plant-based drinks in Brazil.
In Europe, we recently launched our truly outstanding range of Garden Gourmet meat analogue products. The 'Garden Gourmet vegan filet pieces', accurately simulate chicken breast meat properties in terms of appearance, texture, taste and protein content. They are an excellent choice for consumers seeking a flexitarian lifestyle or can complement a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Lastly, we are also investing in new brands. Our recent acquisitions of Terrafertil and Sweet Earth have quickly widened our natural, organic and plant-based offerings in Latin America, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Coming up with great ideas, changing our innovation model and getting to market quicker. This is how Nestlé continues to create long‑term value for our shareholders and for society as a whole.