Beyond Ingredients

Food brands think of ingredient suppliers as transactional vendors. We set out to change that narrative.

Project Details

In 2021, my team was engaged by a global food ingredient supplier to help them differentiate from other suppliers as the go-to innovation partner for launching new products. Most ingredient suppliers compete on price, ability to meet demand, and quality, but our client wanted to offer more. We were brought in to explore creating value-add experiences to customers and demonstrate our client's ability to innovate and bring meaningful products to market.

My Role: Project Lead

User Research
User Experience Design
Stakeholder Interviews

Listening Closely

When first scoping our research for this project, we found that our client did not have a clear customer segmentation or definition around their key customer types. Our team quickly developed an initial segmentation by looking at the two top attributes our client was interested in: innovation ambition and depth of relationship.

Our discovery process included interviews and site visits to ingredient distributors, brokers, and consumer brands to better understand opportunities for suppliers to bring more value to the table. We spoke with twelve companies across four different countries spanning industries from food products to health sciences. Here are some of our top insights we gathered in the field that helped inform our innovation strategy.

New Segmentation

After completing our new segmentation, we determined that less than 10% of our client's business was coming from strategic customers. This was a big risk to their business and a big opportunity for growth going forward.


Standing Out

We brought these rich insights back to our client and facilitated a multi day innovation workshop to turn opportunity spaces into winning innovation strategies. Here are some of the strongest concepts that emerged:


From Ideas to Action

We took these concepts back to the field, testing them with key strategic customers. We determined there were not one, but several winning concepts that made sense to push forward. We created a roadmap to roll these concepts out sequentially, building on one another, starting with the Innovation Lab. This concept is currently under development.

Product Innovation Lab

Test Kitchen // Hackathons // Rapid Prototyping // Sampling Events

Bonus Points

We also identified our first product to prototype in the Innovation Lab in partnership with one of the strategic customers engaged in this project. This product will be in the pet food space, an entirely new category for our client.

In addition to accomplishing the goal of differentiating our client as an innovation leader, we also made an impact on our client through the project itself. Our client was left with a more cohesive team, being driven by a clear voice of customer rather than navigating competing agendas. The sky is the limit for this group going forward and we look forward to many great products emerging in the future.