They say you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.  Perhaps there’s no better reason for food and beverage R&D, sales and marketing executives to attend Prepared Foods’ 33rd annual New Products Conference (NPC), Sept. 27-30, at The Four Seasons hotel in Palm Beach, Fla.

This two-and-half-day event features manufacturing leaders and experts who will discuss the industry’s past, present and future—and connect those insights to hands-on product development strategies.

NPC also recognizes product developers of today and tomorrow with two on-stage award presentations. Prepared Foods and Ventura Foods will honor winners of the 11th annual Spirit of Innovation new product competition. These distinctive awards recognize product development teams for their collaborative work behind successful 2014-15 new retail and foodservice items. Meanwhile, tomorrow’s food formulators will be honored on stage with the DuPont Nutrition & Health collegiate Knowledge Awards.

Future Focus

Among those looking to tomorrow will be Monday’s opening keynote speaker Lynda Deakin, a partner with the Food & Beverage group at IDEO, a global design business. In her talk, “The Future of Food,” Deakin will discuss the food landscape, identify “hot spots” of innovation and outline new design-driven ways to approach innovation for better products, services and brands.

What about creating products for tomorrow’s consumers? Prepared Foods is pleased to host an exclusive live kids panel titled, “Tomorrow’s Trends: Kids Create.” 

The UK’s Consumer Knowledge Centre Ltd. will identify and meet with U.S. kids, aged between 9 and 12 years. Bryan Urbick, CEO and chairman, and Able Westerhof, COO & director, will host pre-conference insight workshops and discussions and ask kids to create their ideal breakfast entrée, lunch entrée, dinner entrée and snacks on-the-go meal options. During NPC, the firm will introduce the kids and facilitate a live, on-stage panel discussion to share the new product insights.

Still think innovation is child’s play? Revolution Foods is a disruptive start-up that creates healthy kids foods and services for schools and grocery store shelves nationwide.  Chris Cornyn, chief innovation officer, will share Revolution Foods’ new approach to please the most finicky consumers—kids!

Elise Donahue, CEO at South Beach Diet, will discuss healthy foods from a different vantage point. How does a diet products manufacturer respond when a growing number of consumers are leery of “diet” plans? Donahue will share consumer insights and outline how South Beach is shifting to on-trend positioning and new products.

Speaking of change, is your ideation process and new product pipeline geared for tomorrow’s trends?

Christopher Miller, PhD, founder of Innovation Focus, believes that if companies develop exactly what the customer wants today—with the capabilities it has today—that company will always miss tomorrow’s opportunities. Dr. Miller will challenge listeners to step beyond “straight-line regression” and into a world where technology forecasting is part of the job, future consumers are real, and product road maps reflect a more exciting reality. 

Here and Now

Prepared Foods is not about to forget about today’s tastes and trends. That’s why another keynote address features Sean Westcott, head of Nestlé SA’s new $53 million global Product Technology Centre for Frozen and Chilled Foods in Solon, Ohio. A 24-year industry veteran who has held global innovation roles within Nestlé, Westcott will share insights about a 144,000-sq.-ft. operation that combines cutting-edge innovation with deep awareness of consumer needs and preferences.

Delivering another global perspective will be Stephen Kalil, CEC, CRC, PepsiCo’s director of R&D and corporate executive research chef. Formerly the corporate chef at PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay unit, Kalil now heads global snack food culinary activities. Kalil will share insights about how PepsiCo combines culinary arts and food science and how it approaches new product ideation and consumer and restaurant insights.

What about targeting Millennial consumers who want something fresh, new and “real” in prepared foods? There’s no one better to deliver that message than EVOL Foods founder Phil Anson, who now serves as chief innovation officer at Boulder Brands. Anson’s talk, “Mining Consumer Insights That Create & Lead Lifestyle Brands,” will explore how companies can develop and build “lifestyle” brands that address real consumer interests.

Dr. James Painter, PhD, RD, will be another presenter sharing consumer insights. Yet his talk, “Good Fats, Bad Carbs: What’s Next? What Do I Eat?” will examine how consumers are somewhat confused by nutrition messaging that seems to shift every few years. Professor Painter is chairman for Eastern Illinois University’s School of Family and Consumer Sciences.  Dr. Painter will examine the latest nutrition science and market messaging—and help R&D professionals plan for the future.

Larry Levin is another trend tracker. And as Information Resources’ executive vice president-Mid Market, Levin is a leading authority and observer on successful new product introductions (IRI’s “New Product Pacesetters”). In this instance, Levin created a custom presentation for NPC called, “Seven Deadly Sins in New Product Development: Why New Products Fail.” Levin will share what he’s identified as seven critical areas where most manufacturers make mistakes in product development.

Connecting Past, Present

Still more speakers will address innovation’s past, present and future. That’s exactly what’s planned for Wednesday’s keynote address by Jim Matthews, president, JEM Innovations. Matthew’s impressive R&D (and quality) background includes executive posts at Ore-Ida Foods, H.J. Heinz and Keurig Green Mountain. He will help NPC attendees identify and change internal barriers that stifle creativity. He also will share best practices ideas that listeners can take home and apply.

Similarly, Prepared Foods will invite a few former Kraft Foods executives, including John Ruff, Kraft’s former senior vice president of R&D/Quality, for an on-stage question-and-answer discussion about today’s trends. In this presentation titled, “Off The Shelf: A Candid Conversation,” executives share insights about R&D and innovation in light of evolving market dynamics and consumer relationships with brands.

Also connecting the dots of innovation and trends are Lynn Dornblaser and David Jago, directors of Innovation & Insight at Mintel. In fact, their Tuesday afternoon presentation (preceding a global new product tasting) will be titled, “Looking Backward to Look Forward.” 

Mintel believes that although major trends driving successful new product development change little over time—the expressions of those trends do change. This presentation will look at a few major trend areas and chart how they have changed over time. Understanding how trend expressions move—and what makes them move—can help identify nascent trends and evaluate whether they will grow or fade. 


Roll Call: NPC Speaker Line-Up!*

Keynote Speakers
Day One: Lynda Deakin, Partner, Food & Beverage, IDEO
Day Two: Sean Westcott, Nestlé SA, Head, Global Product Technology Centre-Solon, Ohio
Day Three: Jim Matthews, former HJ Heinz VP-Global R&D; former Keurig VP-Quality

Manufacturer Executives
PepsiCo: Stephen Kalil, Dir.-R&D & Corporate Executive Research Chef
Boulder Brands: Phil Anson, Chief Innovation Officer (founder EVOL Foods)
Kraft Foods: John Ruff, former SVP-R&D/Quality
Campbell Soup: Carl Johnson, former SVP-Chief Strategy Officer
South Beach Diet: Elise Donahue, CEO
Revolution Foods: Chris Cornyn, Chief Innovation Officer

**Special Exclusive: Live Kids Panel Discussion***
NPC will host a two-part session where Bryan Urbick and Able Westerhof, Consumer Knowledge Centre Ltd., facilitate a live consumer panel discussion with kids ages 9-12. Afterward, Urbick shares additional insights and product development action points.

Industry Data/Research Experts
Mintel: Lynn Dornblaser, David Jago, Directors of Innovation & Insights
Information Resources Inc.: Larry Levin, EVP-Mid Market|
Eastern Illinois School of Consumer & Family Sciences: James Painter, PhD, RD
Innovation Focus: Christopher Miller, Ph.D., NPDP, Founder

(*as of June 19, 2015)