Nestle – Innovation & Employee engagement

Challenge

In November 2013, Nestlé asked themselves whether innovation can be fuelled by their employees. Inspired by initiatives like Apple’s Intrapreneurs, Nestlé wanted to apply this model internally, the first of its kind in the FMCG sector.

After all, employees are consumers too!

But what Nestlé realised is that the employees behind the ideas were just as important as the ideas themselves. So they aimed to develop their employees as intrapreneurs and not just focus on ideation. This gave their employees skin in the game and gave Nestle the opportunity to embed a value that they wanted to see more of, in Nestle – Agility.

Solution

The InGenius program was created. Employees submit their ideas to innovation challenges that Nestle posted through the program. A shortlist of ideas was then created and employees behind the idea were given the chance pitch their idea to senior management. The InGenius team invests heavily in employees who reach this stage by coaching them, helping them develop their concepts, and validating their idea/product prototype.

As a result these employees learn how to research, ideate, prototype, test, and pitch, with the aim of highlighting the business potential of their ideas. The ideas that are backed by senior management are then accelerated to pilot testing.

InGenius’s goal was to encourage ideas and to ensure there was a process in place to nurture the entrepreneurial employees who emerged from the process. And they succeeded. The program has been around for 6 years now!

They maintained momentum through the stories and videos created as a result of successful idea submissions. Employees and potential employees could see that Nestle not inly encourages employee led innovation, but also developed the employees who came up with these ideas to be better ‘intrapreneurs’. The InGenius microsite created a community of internal entrepreneurial talent.

Results

To date, 4,800 ideas have been shared, and 67 projects have been funded across the world.

Nestle’s real benefit was that of people development. Not only did a whopping 63,000 employees engage with this initiative, those who were involved as ‘intrapreneurs’ now bring a start-up mindset to the business. Others learned that collaboration and support for ideas is just as important as the ideas themselves.

InGenius’ success is evident in the stories and innovations that have evolved from the initiative and the increased employee engagement. Further, it is estimated that some of the problems that were solved and implemented through this initiative saved Nestle millions of dollars.

Today, companies need a way of engaging and retaining their top talent. Not only this, but companies also need to find a way to develop talent in a way that is in keeping with the culture the company wants to embed. Agility in the FMCG sector has long been a topic of discussion. While most other companies are struggling with this, Nestle has found a way to inspire their team to be agile and catalyse them to solving problems that Nestle faces – key for the coming months!

Regaining consumer trust – a 2022 focus for many FMCG companies

According to a recent report by Deloitte on the state of the Consumer Goods industry and key imperatives for 2022, increasing transparency helping in regaining consumer trust was top of the list for several companies.
Trust and transparency are intrinsically linked. Consumer goods brands that are not open and transparent are at risk of losing consumers’ trust, according to nine in ten executives that Deloitte surveyed. According to the report, most consumer goods companies are making an investment to increase the level of transparency for consumers and other stakeholders.

Increased transparency requires meaningful insights to be derived from raw data

For consumer goods companies to be transparent to all stakeholders and consumers, data needs to be sensed and captured.

The data collected should be shared and processed with other data sources to derive meaningful insights. Sharing an abundance of raw uncleaned data is likely to result in the opposite of what these companies are trying to achieve.

According to Deloitte’s report, intelligence, artificial or otherwise, is needed to do this effectively.

This includes supply chain transparency

55% of the execs that Deloitte interviewed for this report, cited out of stocks of products as a key reason for losing consumer trust. Another 48% cited stock outs of certain flavours/varieties/pack sizes of the brand as a key reason for losing consumer trust. Out of stocks at stores cannot be solved without transparency across the product value chain. Furthermore, it is critical that retailers and consumer goods brand owners work with the same demand/sales predictions to collaboratively ensure that there is enough stock produced, bought and stocked at stores, to meet demand.

Increased flexibility in stocking

Increased supply chain transparency enables consumer goods brand owners as well as retailers to be more flexible with their stock keeping policies. Most companies these days follow a just in time stock policy. However, when there are production related constraints like raw material supply issues or shortages or labour constrains at manufacturing sites, it enables consumer goods companies to make an informed decision to keep more stock(raw materials and finished products) when possible for future contingencies.

If the constraints are on the logistics side, it enables retailers to make an informed decision to stock more in their warehouses to ensure they do not run out of stock.

Without an understanding of expected consumer demand based on real time data combined with where there are constrains in the value chain, it is impossible for the different stakeholders to make a decision on what needs to be done.

Consumer trust and supply chain transparency

Speaking of stakeholders, consumer goods companies need to regain consumer trust by increasing supply chain transparency. By increasing supply chain transparency and ensuring availability of stock at stores, consumer goods brands and retailers can regain the trust they lost with consumers who experienced availability issues at stores.

What’s more, it gives consumers confidence in any sustainability claims the brand/retailer makes. According to the execs interviewed by Deloitte, 84% of them feel that consumers lose trust when brands don’t meet consumer expectations on ESG initiatives.

If you’d like to learn more about how to increase supply chain transparency and derive meaningful insights regarding demand from available data, email me on veena@salesbeat.co

Mayonnaise – how Hellmann’s became synonymous with giving new life to food

Hellmann’s, Unilever’s line of condiments, position themselves as solving a problem, not selling a product. Most food & beverage brands differentiate themselves from competition on taste & quality/use of ingredients. In the world of condiments, this is difficult as most consumers perceive this segment to be functional.
The Hellmann’s unique marketing strategy team at Unilever understood this and have long positioned their brand as one that encourages creativity in cooking and food. Over the last 3 or so years, they have been championing solving the food waste problem at home using Hellmann’s mayonnaise.

Bring out the best

In 2019, Unilever launched the ‘Bring out the best’ campaign in UK. The campaign by  Ogilvy UK & Unilever asked people to get leftovers from their fridge for Hellmann’s to transform into ‘new’ meals using their range. David Hertz, a celebrity Chef, transformed people’s leftovers into five-star meals using the Hellmann’s range.

Bring our the Best Campaign in the UK, 2019

This campaign is a great example of embedded marketing, where the potential of the product is incorporated into a strong social message. Not only did it receive organic coverage from news outlets, it was popular on social media too.

Previous success

Ogilvy and Hellmann’s had previously done a similar campaign in Canada in 2018, which informed Canadians that they waste enough food every minute to feed a stadium. In the advert, they showcased feeding a stadium full of people with food waste from grocery stores.

Delivering a fully integrated campaign pinned on the message, ‘more real food for real people’, the brand created a mini digital site where people can find food rescue tips, recipes and facts on food waste.

Feed a stadium campaign – Canada, 2018

The campaign earned 13.5MM+ impressions & influencer content achieved 2MM+ organic impressions (3.5x the industry benchmark). Their mini digital site with educational tips on reducing food waste had a view-through rate of +80% above industry benchmarks.

2020

Based on the success of their campaign in Canada and also the ‘Bring out the Best’ campaign in the UK, they launched the ‘Turn nothing into something’ campaign in Canada in 2020 and the Fairy Godmayo ad in the US in time for Super Bowl.

Turn Nothing into Something ad in Canada
Fairy Godmayo ad in the US – launched in time for Super Bowl, 2020

In 2020, as an initial step towards the larger vision to reduce food waste, the brand started the Hellmann’s Food Relief Fund. This has already saved 1.2 million pounds of food waste from farms and redistributed this food to communities in need. 

Embedding sustainability in the brand’s DNA

The Hellmann’s initiative, “Make Taste, Not Waste”, is part of Unilever’s “Future Foods” ambition, which launched globally in 2020 with two key objectives: to help people transition towards healthier diets and to help reduce the environmental impact of the global food chain. One of the key “Future Foods” commitments is to halve food waste in Unilever’s direct global operations from factory to shelf by 2025.

This initiative was also lauded by Daniel Balaban, Director of UN in Brazil who mentioned, “The idea is an extremely important wake-up call on food waste”.

Not only does Hellmann’s have a focus on food waste but they are leading the way in terms of how they are sourcing the plastic used in their bottles and caps. In 2018, they started making their bottles 100% recyclable.

Embedding the food waste cause deep into the brand’s image, has helped Unilever breathe life into what is otherwise a commoditised condiment. They have tapped into a segment of consumers who will stay loyal to the brand due to the causes the brand stands for, which is crucial for the year ahead.

FMCG conglomerate shake up underway?

On 21 June 2022, The Kellogg Company announced that they were planning to separate into 3 different businesses by end of 2023. As soon as this hit the news, I’m sure investors and employees of other companies are wondering which conglomerate might be splitting up next. According to Bank of America analyst, Bryan Spillane, the big food breakup “is already underway”. However we, at Salesbeat, think the FMCG conglomerate break up is what is underway.

Why now?

So what is happening now, that is accelerating M & As and separations? We’ve just come out on the other side of a longer than expected pandemic, which had a larger than expected impact on lifestyles and consumer buying behaviour. While certain trends accelerated during the pandemic, new ones emerged and solidified at an accelerated pace too. Remote working and remote education being two of those. While remote education is unlikely to continue in the short to medium term, remote working is here to stay.

As a result of remote working, a new trend/behaviour came into being – living outside the city. Pre-pandemic, everyone wanted to reduce their commutes and live close to work. Healthy snacking was a trend that accelerated during the pandemic and is one of the reasons why the Kellogg split happened.

Another reason for this is the rapid increase in supply chain costs. In this context, companies need to double down on efficiencies so savings can be realised in other areas. And one of them is the route to market.

What about economies of scale?

While you may think that these companies benefit from economies of scale, you’d be right, but only when it comes to manufacturing. When it comes to sales, marketing and strategy teams, each category is likely to have a different team. Also, transport and logistics costs are likely to be separate from other categories.

So FMCG conglomerate break up helps companies focus on growing sales/distribution of distinct categories that share both the route to consumer and manufacturing technology. For example, holding a portfolio purely in the snacking category or in the breakfast cereals category.

So let’s look at some of the other companies under discussion.

Unilever

Unilever is one of the few FMCG companies that owns brands across very disparate categories. The own and sell brands under the Beauty & Wellbeing, Personal Care, Home care, Ice Cream, Condiments, Soup and Plant based meat categories.

Not only do these categories not share the same route to market, but they also have different teams managing the various brands. Furthermore, these categories most likely have raw materials from very disparate suppliers which are manufactured in very different manufacturing entities.

Nestle

Another large Food & Beverage conglomerate that owns brands across very different categories ranging from Pet food to Coffee & Coffee makers.

While brands in the same category may share similar routes to consumer, manufacturing sites and suppliers, brands across categories do not.

General Mills

General Mills has brands across very different food categories and also in Pet food. Their food portfolio includes brands in categories ranging from tinned vegetables (Green Giant) to Baking (Pillsbury, Betty Crocker etc) and from the snacking occasion (Larabar, Bugles, EPIC, Yoplait etc) to ice cream.

FMCG companies with diverse portfolios that are not likely to split are:

PepsiCo

PepsiCo is another company that has come under scrutiny for the very different categories their brands fall under. However, PepsiCo is one of the few companies whose strategy took this into account to convert into a strength. There was a concerted effort from the PepsiCo team to create one route to market. This is one reason why splitting PepsiCo up does not make strategic sense for the company.

Mars

Mars is an FMCG company with a portfolio that ranges across confectionery, pet food and Food (Uncle Ben’s, Dolmio etc). While the same rationale as Nestle and General Mills applies to Mars too, it is unlikely that they’ll spin categories off into separate companies. This is because they are still a family owned business. As long as the family still believes in the company owning brands across disparate categories to manage their risk/return, they are likely to lean into this.

A case for not splitting some of these companies up

In the last 20 years, we have seen the creation of FMCG behemoths where the driving rationale has been more about portfolio diversification and less about lower costs from scale benefits. As long as these different categories and functions are treated as completely different business units for decision making, investors can still benefit from a portfolio of brands across categories during uncertain times. Similar to how a portfolio of stocks spread across companies across various industries help investors manage their risk, FMCG companies and their shareholders maybe able to benefit from a diverse portfolio if managed right.

Conclusion

5 years from now, it’ll be interesting to look at the mergers, acquisitions and divestments in this space and how these companies fare in the long term. While we could argue many different ways for and against splitting these companies up or investing in/developing new categories to manage risk, we live in times so uncertain that the benefits may go either way.