Industry leaders and top food marketing and R&D professionals will gather in Palm Beach, Fla. for the 19th New Products Conference. To be held September 30 to October 3 at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach, the 2001 edition again will boast a wide array of industry leaders offering insight on the hottest food industry topics.

In addition, attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about one of the biggest new product launches in the history of H.J. Heinz Company. Mike Walters led the Heinz team that, through an agreement with Boston Chicken Inc., licensed the Boston Market brand, which would go on to achieve $150 million in first-year sales. Walters will discuss the efforts, challenges and strategies that led to this success.

Such new products have a variety of challenges to overcome and, more often than not, will not enjoy a great deal of success. In fact, at least 50% of all new brands and line extensions fail. That failure rate is even higher at the individual SKU level; however, identifying some causes of the failure and incorporating proven methods can be quite beneficial. Valerie Skala, vice president of analytic product management and development with Information Resources Inc., will address these elements of success in "Five Ways to Beat the Odds with New Products."

A Presidential Agenda

A highlight of each year's conference has been the opportunity to hear presidents from major food companies discuss new product philosophies and to take questions from the audience. This year's conference will be no different, as presidents from around the industry will be on-hand to discuss relevant topics, ideas and experiences. Currently slated to appear are:
  • Edward Haft, president of Sara Lee Bakery. With Sara Lee Bakery for over 16 years, Haft has held management roles in marketing, sales and business development and was named president of Sara Lee's retail, in-store bakery and export divisions in 1997--before being appointed president/COO in 2000.
  • William Raaths, president of Anchor Food Products. Raaths brings 20-plus years of experience to his positions as president and CEO at Anchor, roles he assumed in 1999.
  • Paul Merage, founder/CEO of Chef America, has over 30 years of food industry and consumer marketing experience. He focuses on improving product offerings and introducing new products to match consumer tastes and trends.

A Matter of Taste

Another favorite event at each conference, the Global Tasting Session, will feature a sampling of foods and beverages from around the world. Organized by the new product experts at Mintel IIS, the Global New Products Tasting Session will feature 75 new global products for participants to taste, touch and see. This interesting look at an assortment of international foods will provide an excellent opportunity to gauge trends and competitor intelligence.

Mintel IIS and its New Product News will also feature the 2001 Update, presented by Lynn Dornblaser, editorial director (North America) and David Jago, editorial director (Europe) of New Product News/Global New Products Database. This informative session will provide updates on food product trends from North America, Europe and around the world.

Trends will be further explored by John Ruff, senior vice president of North American technology, quality assurance and scientific relations at Kraft Foods; Ruff's presentation will center on research and development trends. Meanwhile, trends in food and beverage packaging will be covered by Ben Miyares, vice president of industry relations, Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute.

Divining the Dining Trends

The future of the grocery aisles often can be seen in the present in restaurants. With this in mind, the New Products Conference has regularly featured presentations from the foodservice industry. This year is no exception, and Ron Paul, president of Technomic Inc., will explore foodservice R&D in his presentation "Best Practices in Food Service New Product Development." Paul will discuss the four-phase process Technomic recommends manufacturers use in order to maximize the return they receive from new product development investments.

Trends always play a key role in product development, as well as in the presentations/discussions at the annual New Product Conferences. This year, nutrition is among the trends garnering attention. A number of presentations will highlight this growing area of interest and awareness among consumers.

Dr. Cathy M. Kapica, director of nutrition education with The Quaker Oats Company, will be the first to address the topic of nutrition from a new product development standpoint. Her "Marketing Nutrition, A Key Ingredient for Success" will be followed later in the conference with a session on developing and marketing nutritional products.

Also of growing interest to consumers is organic foods, the subject for Anthony Zolezzi, president of New Organics Company, the 2001 New Products Company of the Year. His "Courting Consumers with Organics" will delve into the current and potential opportunities that exist in this growing sector of the food industry.

To register or to obtain more information on the conference, please contact Marge Whalen at 630-694-4347 click on the New Products Conference link.