Recently, I attended the Prepared Foods’ New Products Conference, which kicked off with the founders of Kashi®, Philip and Gayle Tauber, sharing their inspiring story of creating a brand rooted in their personal passion for body building and nutrition.
The Taubers shared the amazing journey they have traveled while establishing and building the Kashi brand – growing it from a husband-and-wife business to a household brand before being sold to Kellogg in 2000. Originally involved in bodybuilding gyms, the Taubers were pioneers of understanding the role diet and supplements played in supporting a physical lifestyle. The original Kashi products and brand was born from their search for the perfect high-protein, high in complex-carbohydrate, yet low-fat natural food source to fuel their athlete-lifestyle. However, their need met perfect timing as the fitness and healthy-living popularity boom of the 80’s occurred and the Taubers launched their first product in 1984 - Kashi Breakfast Pilaf. Not only was Kashi creating innovative products, they then turned to innovative marketing tactics to spread the word of their new products and create interest in a crowded packaged food market. Bringing together unique products with clever marketing, the Taubers hit the streets and stood at finish lines offering their healthy foods to athletes upon completing events – pioneering the “end of the race” feeding that is now commonplace at marathons, triathlons and other athletic competitions. Furthermore, Kashi understood the power of industry influencers long before blogs and social media existed – they built relationships with weight-loss companies and nutritionists who truly understood the value of their products for the consumer.
As Kashi the brand grew so did the category of health and nutrition offerings as the trend was on the rise – they quickly found themselves firmly planted in a growing industry – often surrounded by food ‘giants’ in what once was considered a niche offering. As the space became increasingly crowded, Kashi stayed relevant by always aiming to innovate like the emerging company they started as. To stay in the mindset of an emerging brand or company, you must continually ask:
By clearly defining their vision, having an unquestioning belief in their ideas and believing that the reality was changeable because of a truly determined need (just some of the steps to “Innovision”, as defined by the Taubers) – Kashi carved out a niche within an established industry and laid the foundation for a sustainable and successful brand. Another key for a new, fast-growing company like Kashi was that they had to lay out the map for innovation to change as the company and industry grew. The Taubers shared a number of other key learnings along their path to success, including lessons in online selling and store placement and a few that particularly support their commitment to product innovation are:
- Competitive differentiation is crucial. Define what sets your products apart – something old can be new again! Take advantage of creative ingredient differences, scientific discoveries, and new packaging concepts and re-purpose existing products and sizes.
- There will be roadblocks to success. Being aware of the roadblocks is half the battle. Be prepared to foster an open environment that dedicates R&D resources to new idea development. Furthermore, is critical and adjacent thinking encouraged and rewarded across the organization to keep the innovation flowing?
- Embrace design-led thinking. Combine empathy, creativity and rationality to fuel innovation.
At Kashi, clearly innovation was at the core of not only their products but also an organization-wide belief that was integrated into every facet – from product development to marketing to sales. Hearing the story directly from the founders was a real treat. Although the Taubers have moved on to other ventures since selling Kashi to Kellogg’s in 2000, their passion and belief in the brand was still palpable throughout their keynote.
This blog post only touches on insights from the keynote of the conference. Watch for my next post, as I dig into how some of the presenters touched on the changing landscape of consumers and innovation in response – including the impact of millennials and ‘natural’ foods.