The path to innovation at Masterfoods

Mike Payne is director of snack food packaging at Masterfoods USA, a division of Mars Inc., owner of some of the nation’s most well-known confectionery brands. In a recent conversation with Packaging World, he discusses innovation and trends in packaging structures.

Pw 8795 Mike Payne Masterfoods

PW: How do you define innovation, in terms of your company’s packaging initiatives?

Payne: We define packaging innovation as a tool to drive economic benefit for the business. This can be a simple change in the product count inside a multipack, a moderately complex material change, or a completely new form for a new product. The commonality is that they all enable improved business results.

PW: What internal challenges do you face in conceiving a really innovative package and getting it to market?

Payne: The key challenges are business balance and development time. By balance I mean the package is appropriate for the complete life cycle of the product and the corresponding business case. Most innovations alter the supply chain, distribution performance, retail presentation, and consumer experience of a given product. The key is to find the balance where the benefits of the change outweigh any negative system impacts. That takes time.

PW: The buzz in marketing circles is that useful products in packaging that works for the consumer as both shopper and user of the product, as well as for the retailer, are essential. What will brand managers and designers need to do to get critical buy-in from senior management to allow trial and error in package development?

Payne: The key is to start by tying the anticipated benefit to the business strategy and then frequently articulating the most recent development learnings. Keep linking the effort to the end business benefit. A strong link to field sales will allow the voice of the customer to support the development as well. If a package is capable of delivering on this level, a senior team will encourage the development, not curtail it.

PW: Where do you see packaging structures trending in the next year to add value at both the point of purchase and the point of use?

Payne: The value-added trends will be flexibility in display and sustainability. A package that is compatible with multiple display vehicles and/or methods of product presentation will really stand out to the retailer.

PW: Who has a spot on the “innovation team” at Masterfoods? Is it necessary to have an “innovation director?” Can the participants vary and the team still be successful?

Payne: Everyone can be an innovator and everyone should be on the “innovation team.” Innovation does not require an “innovation director” or designated leader. Innovation is most successful when led by those with a passion to progress an idea. 

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