Danone ‘tinkers’ with company culture to innovate

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

In a keynote speech at World Food Innovate this week, Danone’s Christophe Perthuisot introduced the concept of 'Friday Tinkering' to foster innovation and build a sustainable product pipeline.
In a keynote speech at World Food Innovate this week, Danone’s Christophe Perthuisot introduced the concept of 'Friday Tinkering' to foster innovation and build a sustainable product pipeline.

Related tags: Nutrition, Danone

In a keynote speech at World Food Innovate this week, Danone’s Christophe Perthuisot gave a revealing insight into how the company’s Friday afternoons are devoted to idea generation, where innovative concepts are explored and developed into a sustainable product pipeline.

“We have what is known as ‘Friday Tinkering, where once in a while on a Friday afternoon I ask staff and colleagues on ideas that they’ve always wanted to try,“​ he explained. “There are dedicated spaces in most of our labs, where we encourage them to engage in this activity.”

“The fact that we have created a mindset of experimentation and the ability to take risks means teams know when they are trying to do something they are supported. It has created an organisation that is vibrant and can make things happen.”

Consumer collaboration

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“The fact that we have created a mindset of experimentation and the ability to take risks means teams know when they are trying to do something they are supported. It has created an organisation that is vibrant and can make things happen.”

Perthuisot, vice president, R&D Waters, at Danone Nutricia Research, was in London to discuss how the food giant was in the midst of developing an experimentation mindset that includes an element of risk-taking whilst fitting in with the company culture.

Part of creating this culture is collaboration with a range of partnerships that Danone have set up not only with the industry but also with research institutions.

It’s collaboration with the Top Institute for Food and Nutrition (TIFN) consists of how gut microbiota can be an important factor in the onset of obesity.

In a similar vein, Danone’s participation in The LipiDiDiet project aims to investigate the value of nutritional support in those at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The project includes the potential therapeutic and preventive effects of dietary lipids in model systems of Alzheimer’s disease but also vascular dementia.

According to Perthuisot, the consumer is core to alliances. He said feedback and opinions from customers was the best response to fast track research times, which were continually getting faster.

“We decided to extend our approach by including consumer panels. They can come to our offices located in China, Poland or Mexico for example. In 24 hours, we can get consumers into the office to work with us and tell us what they like and don’t like.

“We can see how they react to our prototypes. That’s our way to fast track research. The time to market has to become faster and shorter. We spend a lot of time with the team to make product development faster. Fifteen years ago the process took a month and a half. Today, with the advent of simulations and 3D printing we can do that in five days.”

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