Dec 07, 2011 • By

Open innovation helps create Fiber One Brownies

With our trusted brands like Pillsbury, Gold Medal and Betty Crocker, we know a thing or two about baked goods here at General Mills. So, a delicious, nutritious, ready-to-eat 90-calorie brownie would seem to fall in our wheelhouse, right?

As it turns out, that wasn’t exactly the case.

While at-home bakers have relied on General Mills brands for decades, there’s a big difference between producing world-renowned flour, baking mixes and pre-made refrigerated dough, and producing a shelf-stable, ready-to-eat baked good.

This was the challenge faced by our Snacks division when it wanted to add a tasty, wholesome brownie to the popular line of Fiber One products. While the Fiber One team created the idea and concept, and our R&D department had the expertise to make the perfect dough for this brownie, the teams realized they didn’t have the existing internal expertise and baking manufacturing capabilities to bake it.

It was time to enlist an open innovation partner to save time and reduce risk in developing Fiber One 90-Calorie Brownies.

We found that partner in Hearthside Food Solutions, a company that General Mills has worked with for years on other product innovations. Hearthside had the baking experience, technical know-how and pilot plant facilities needed to bring the brownies to full-scale production.

All of these factors contributed to a smooth startup, while maximizing efficiency in terms of time and General Mills’ investment.

By collaborating with an open innovation partner, the Snacks division estimates it saved nine to 12 months in terms of taking the product from concept to launch. Additionally, Hearthside has shared in the marketplace success of Fiber One 90-Calorie Brownies with a sizeable increase in its business with General Mills in 2011.

Open innovation is all about looking inside and outside the company to find smart people with the right capabilities to drive business forward. The mutually beneficial partnership formed with Hearthside to develop Fiber One 90-Calorie Brownies is yet another example of open innovation at its finest.

In the following video, senior scientist Jeff Resch, who led R&D efforts for Fiber One 90-Calorie Brownies, shares his thoughts on how open innovation is changing thinking among General Mills’ technical community and across the company.