Designing and testing 7 products in 7 months

We partnered with Almarai on the development of an accelerated innovation process, resulting in the launch of new food and beverage ideas.

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MONTHS
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BUSINESS UNITS INVOLVED
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Innovation coaches trained
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products designed
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Products moved to stage-gate process

Challenge

Accelerating product design and testing with consumers through a new approach to innovation

Almarai is the world’s largest vertically integrated dairy company and the largest food production and distribution company in the Middle East. 

As leaders in the Dairy Industry, Almarai used its experience to establish the first infant formula factory in the Gulf Region, while also maintaining reach across food, juice, baked goods, snacks and poultry categories. 

With ambitions to maintain its long-standing success in the food and beverage industry, Almarai decided it was time to find a new approach to innovation. One that would be a faster, more customer-proof way of creating disruptive products for their constantly changing regional  market.

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The methodology gave us a fresh type of insight into consumers’ pain and gains and it was eye opening to see new horizons of innovation. From a coaching point of view, it equipped us with strong knowledge and practical tools that are extremely useful.

Suzanne Alodaib - Nutrition Manager Almarai

Solution

Sprinting and growing capabilities to speed up product development

Almarai’s challenge was multifold: on the one hand accelerating business-as-usual product development, without changing the stage-gate process was deemed fundamental; on the other hand, establishing a common innovation framework and building internal capabilities to grow in-house expertise for future business challenges, was crucial. 

Bearing this in mind, Board of Innovation designed a multi-step innovation program to include A) two innovation accelerator programs, aimed at speeding up the innovation process with customer-centricity in mind, and B) a  training program, with the objective of creating Almarai’s first innovation team of coaches. The entire program lasted 7 months and was rolled out as shown below:

Almarai’s staff involvement was crucial throughout the entire program, and took place in several ways:

  • Business Units heads were involved during the scoping workshops at the beginning of each innovation accelerator, to identify key categories, category-related objectives and to tackle the chosen challenges;
  • The Innovation team managed the roll-out of all the steps, acting as a bridge between Board of Innovation and Almarai’s key stakeholders;
  • The innovation coaches trained different teams leading them from problem exploration to the pitching in  the second run of the innovation accelerator.

Impact

3 products moved to the stage-gate process and the innovation process was validated

Given the multi-fold nature of the initial challenge, the program’s results were expansive . 

The business impact can be summarized as follows: 

  • The first common innovation methodology was designed and validated during the program itself and finalized between the two innovation accelerator runs;
  • The first innovation playbook was released to support innovation scaling within Almarai; 
  • 7 solutions were developed, validated with customers, and pitched at the end of each innovation accelerator;
  • 5 different categories of Almarai’s portfolio were involved, namely dairy, juice, foods, bakery and infant nutrition;
  • 3 of the 7 solutions pitched were supported by the juries who decided to move them to the stage-gate process.

From a human perspective, the program impacted:

  • Consumers were the starting and ending points of the entire program, resulting in a stronger relationship between Almarai and its diversified target market;
  • It allowed for the creation of the first team of innovation coaches, capable to support and lead all initiatives to be launched by Almarai Innovation team;
  • It ensured gender balance during all the 3 steps of the program;
  • It included cross-department collaboration, with teams including professionals from different BU’s, and teams having to collaborate with experts from packaging and production line, during the validation design phase

BOIs output was a well-designed methodology that has provided us with a solution-based approach to problem solving. It’s able to help us understand consumer needs while tackling complex problems.

Suzanne Alodaib - Nutrition Manager Almarai

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