Innovation is a buzzword that is repeated all the time, but what does it really mean? Not a lot in the way it is currently used, according to industry expert and strategy analyst Virpi Varjonen of Invenire.
Speaking to us at the recent Vitafoods Europe and Finished Products Europe show in Geneva, Varjonen suggested that there is a lack of true innovation within the food and nutrition sector - warning that 'innovation' and related terms are fast becoming meaningless buzzwords.
"There's so much talk about innovation. Whether it is in a conference, or on the show floor with companies presenting new products ... innovation is repeated all the time, but what does it really mean?"
As part of her work with Invenire and as our guest blogger for the show, Varjonen headed out to speak to companies claiming to be 'innovative' to try and find a more firm definition of the word.
"I went out and I asked people how they would define innovation ... and the answers I got were a little bit striking."
According to Varjonen's conversations at the show, innovation is rooted in science and research - and is generally related to new technologies, ingredients, or even health claims legislation.
"For me, as a market researcher ... I would call that invention, and not innovation."
"Invention is something that people have developed, and now they are introducing it. But we have no idea whether it's going to be commercially successful or not."
This is the key problem, she said. Noting that many inventions labelled as innovative have not been shown to be that in a commercial setting.
"Innovation is really something that will change the world in the marketplace, and from a consumer's point of view really be there at the interface with consumers."
She suggested that industry needs to think more about what consumers are, how they live life, and try to find true innovations that 'can make the difference in that consumer's life.'