Jun 19, 2013 • By

Innovation and collaboration swiftly launch Green Giant snack chips

While Green Giant has been a grocery-store fixture in canned and frozen vegetables for generations, this year the brand entered the snack aisle for the very first time when General Mills introduced Green Giant Roasted Veggie Tortilla Chips in Zesty Cheddar flavor and Green Giant Multigrain Sweet Potato Chips in Sea Salt flavor.

Part of what makes the brand’s entry into this new category so remarkable is that the chips were taken from concept to national launch in just 12 months – a feat that would have been impossible were it not for our company’s open approach to innovation.

Prior to launching the General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network (G-WIN) in 2007, General Mills kept our future plans, projects and products highly confidential, even with our most trusted partners and suppliers. As we adopted our formal open innovation strategy, it was evident there were many opportunities to better collaborate with suppliers at the front end of innovation.

One way General Mills now encourages richer collaboration is by sharing future areas of interest with our trusted suppliers, and even enlisting them to help develop “ready-to-launch” concepts for consideration. In January 2012, we invited Shearer’s Foods, an award-winning snacks manufacturer specializing in chips, to showcase its “ready-to-launch” ideas at an innovation show at General Mills.

Shearer’s Foods had developed 10 snack concepts for us to consider, several of which piqued our teams’ interests. At that time, vegetable snack chips were quickly gaining popularity, presenting the perfect opportunity for the Green Giant brand to provide an offering by collaborating with Shearer’s.

“We were impressed by the breadth of options that Shearer’s brought for our consideration,” says Jenny Mcaab, innovation entrepreneur for General Mills’ Snacks division. “Shearer’s went above and beyond by hiring an outside R&D person to develop unique products to complement our brands.”

Following the innovation show, our technical team worked side-by-side with the Shearer’s technical team to tweak the products and bring to life Green Giant Roasted Veggie Tortilla Chips and Green Giant Multigrain Sweet Potato Chips.

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By June 2012, we were testing the new snack chips in select club stores across the country. The Multigrain Sweet Potato Chips earned rave reviews from those surveyed.

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But we learned from consumers that the Roasted Veggie Tortilla Chips could be bolder in flavor. Based on that feedback, the R&D teams added the Zesty Cheddar flavor to deliver the zip consumers wanted, and by January 2013, both varieties of the Green Giant snack chips were rolled out in retail stores nationwide.

“One of the great things about open innovation is that it allows us to experiment with new products in ways that wouldn’t be possible within our own walls,” Mcaab said. “In a relationship like this one, each party brings unique capabilities. By collaborating with outside partners like Shearer’s, we can create mutually beneficial new businesses like the new Green Giant snack chips.”

Last month, General Mills recognized Shearer’s with an “Off-the-Shelf Innovation Award” at our 2013 Supplier Summit. Additionally, we continue to work with Shearer’s today, collaborating on future Green Giant snack products.

“The partnership between Shearer’s and General Mills offers a great platform to share our unique capabilities, ideas and experiences. The result of this work is both more successful retail customers and more satisfied consumers,” said Monty Pooley, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Shearer’s. “Shearer’s recognizes the value of working with talented industry leaders like General Mills, and we look forward to continued collaboration and innovation on future initiatives.”

To learn more, visit the General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network.