Dispatches: Food Protein Vision 2018

Arla Foods: Developing a taste for innovation and a big slice of data

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Consumer-focused innovation may take on another creative element with the adoption of big data but for Arla Foods the data-heavy approach is key to gaining a competitive advantage.

This year’s Food Protein Vision gave much opportunity for firms large and small to exchange ideas on innovation and how best to generate game-changing ideas in a climate of cost-cutting and caution. 

Arla Foods, a strong advocate of applying innovation at all stages of the food chain, explained that no one person ‘owned’ any approaches to innovation, preferring to foster a culture that derives inspiration from the most unlikely of places.

“We have processes based on new pipelines of innovation but we see innovation permeating from procurement, from transport and from the supply chain,”​ said Harry Barraza, head of open innovation at Arla Foods.

“In every one of those people in the company has a say in how we innovate.”

Innovation recognition

Arla Foods—currently the largest European organic milk producer – made headlines in 2016 with its high protein fermented yoghurt product, “Skyr,” which won Product of the Year, voted for by  consumers, who were impressed with the innovation demonstrated.

Barraza describes the collaborations Arla Foods have formed between enterprises, academia and entrepreneurs that promote a new way of thinking although as he admits, it was not without its challenges.

“It’s very difficult for a large company to work with a small company,”​ Barraza explained. “We’ve gone through stages, where it was not compatible and we would never be able to understand why the small company wanted to move so fast.

“They in turn couldn’t understand why we would move so slow in making decisions. We know the risk is there and we have been working with companies in a new consortium called Scale-Up Denmark.  

“Here, we bring start-ups to a programme that involves not only pitching ideas to us and collaborate but also to help the small company to grow, scale and be ready if the idea flies with us.”  

In challenging the normal and actively seeking out disruptive ideas, Barraza and Arla Foods believe input from both internal and external sources is key to reinventing food, its properties, its method of production and benefits to long-term health.

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