2022: the year of innovation.
Of course, calling any year “the Year of …….” is hazardous and some might even say pompous. But what speaks against it, if we bear in mind that nowadays virtually every day on the calendar is a day of something.
Nothing official, just spontaneously created (I assume) like “the day to take the dog to the office”. Or something a bit more serious – at least from a commercial perspective – like Black Friday, which in my region lasted a whole week.
When we have the year of innovation, we have a label, a focal point, maybe even a purpose. If you agree with me that the opportunity and necessity to innovate in the pet food industry is now. The opportunity is probably always there; and by labelling the year we make the necessity more tangible, more pregnant.
Because the pandemic changes the dynamics. In virtually every aspect of our business. Some of these forever.
As an industry we have been spoiled for a long time. By operating in a market that showed healthy and incessant growth, where we did not experience significant supply chain issues and room for improvement was readily available. Just think humanisation and premiumisation as key drivers for growth. All good reasons to continue to invest in what we already knew and what we already had experience with. There was no perceived necessity to truly innovate because the sky seemed to be the limit for what we were doing.
And yet there is a limit to the sky; that is where the atmosphere becomes stratosphere where it is – according to those in the know – very challenging to do business. As an industry we have reached the point where we have to swim against the stream we have created ourselves! Because the waves we have created start to bounce back.
Our handicap is that we all start with comparable sets of numbers and qualitative information to compose our views on the future. And we all have the urge to be different. Which we translate into new and improved. Sadly enough, different has an increasingly short life-span because the difference itself becomes more and more marginal. And nobody seems to bite the bullet by trying to rock the boat seriously.
One of the ways of rocking the boat seriously is to innovate. I do not mean the highly diluted definition of innovation as seems to be en vogue nowadays. I think about a process that has the following purpose: to develop “something” that is meaningful for the end-buyer, that will make a structural and long-lasting change in and for the market and the industry, that takes a long time to be copied effectively and yields an unprecedented high level of added value.
These are very ambitious KPIs, but worthwhile to consider, because in most cases an innovation-process takes (much) longer than a normal development-process with substantially higher budgets; and therefore merits ambitious goals I think.
The process of innovation is neither the realm nor the privilege of the pet food mastodonts as some still tend to think. The contrary seems to be true nowadays. It’s not about size, it’s about agility in adapting to change. It’s also about cultures in companies. Does the “wizard in residence” get the opportunity and the budgets to work on the “impossible”?
Some points to “take home” when thinking innovation:
- It’s not Eureka, but a process that is minutely planned and executed
- It’s about taking nothing for granted anymore
- It’s part of your strategy, not something that is done by a hobbyist in a dark corner of your factory
- It is focal point, not something “we will pick up when we have time”
- It’s a board-room commitment and it has a defined goal
And above all it gives you the opportunity to profit from the Sustainable Competitive Advantage that you have created.
Therefore, let’s get ready, let’s innovate!
In a podcast available through and organised by Petfood Industry Magazine I expressed further thoughts on the subject. If you click here, you can hear what I had to say.