I’ll come right out and say it. I realize Coca-Cola Freestyle, Coca-Cola’s foodservice beverage machine -- is not exactly new news. Yet, I would argue that this four-year-old technology -- which meters and mixes flavor ingredients as if they were medicines -- is no less interesting or innovative today than when it debuted in 2009.
Of course, this month’s article (page 49) led me to poke around Coca-Cola’s website. That’s where I learned about David Butler. He was Coca-Cola’s vice president of global design until last January, when the company promoted him to vice president of innovation.
Says Coke, “Every day it’s his job to create the systems, processes and relationships necessary for the company to produce as much value as possible through innovation.” 
In a special “10 Questions” feature, this former brand strategist-designer-art-director-business-consultant (and more) said several things that caught my attention. Here’s one snippet:
“When we look toward 2020, the predictable, formulated and analytical world we’ve known and operated in for so long is changing. In order to survive and hopefully thrive, we must design for adaptability. And, this requires different skills. For example, being able to integrate seemingly unrelated things is a skill, as is using empathy to design solutions that can adapt to different user needs, or using systems thinking to understand how to create shared value.
Some people call these examples of right-brain thinking or design thinking. Others call them creative skills. I call them survival skills. But, no matter what we call them, we all need to build our competency in these areas to create more adaptability for our business.”
To me, Coca-Cola demonstrated this when it created Coca-Cola Freestyle and borrowed outside technologies (medical dosing) and even design sensibilities (those of Pininfarina Extra, which designs for Ferrari). Meanwhile, I think it’s time all food and beverage processors think a little more outside the box (or bottle). 
How timely is this issue? The American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) -- whose members include some of the largest CPG companies -- is developing a “Frozen Food Roundtable” consumer media and messaging campaign to jumpstart frozen food sales. I’ll connect the dots and suggest that corporate product developers, chefs and nutritionists also will be an important part of meaningful change.
If you’d like to jumpstart your thinking, I’d also invite you to Prepared Foods’ 31st annual New Products Conference, which includes a “who’s who” of top manufacturing and market insights speakers. For more information…just look down…The Best Program Ever in 2013!

Prepared Foods’ 31th annual New Products Conference will be held September 15-18, 2013, at Loews Coronado, in San Diego, Calif. 

Monday Keynote Address:
Innovate Like an Emerging Company
Speakers: Gayle and Philip Tauber, Co-founders, Kashi Company
Gayle and Philip Tauber co-founded one of the nation’s more popular natural food brands and regard their laser-sharp focus on unmet needs as the true key to their success. 
Such a focus led to on-the-spot innovating, a strategy that may seem the provenance small companies, but one which can give any-sized entity the daring of an emerging company.
Tuesday Keynote Address:
Innovation Engineering
Speaker: Doug Hall, Innovation Engineer, Eureka Ranch
What if innovation were a science: a proven series of quantifiable rules and procedures? Doug Hall has transformed innovation into a reliable scientific system, one that delivers increased speed (up to six times) and decreased risk. Join Hall as he shares its principles and potential applications for food and beverage developers.
Hear from Quaker Oats, Tyson Deli, Nestle, Kraft Foods, General Mills, MilkPEP, Mintel International and more! 
Make plans to attend now! 
Prepared Foods’ 2013 New Products Conference has arranged a special rate of $199 plus tax per night for attendees at Loews Coronado in San Diego. 
Make plans now to ensure availability. Register today and save $300! 
For more information, visit www.NewProductsConference.com or contact Marge Whalen at 847-405-4071 or whalenm@bnpmedia.com