Ideas
Explore the world's #1 largest database of ideas and innovations, with over 500,000 inspiring examples.
Trend Reports
Discover why 900 brands rely on our AI-powered Trend Reports to get better, faster insights.
Newsletter
Join 289,767 subscribers who rely on our weekly newsletter to keep up with need-to-know trends and insights.
Consumer Insights
Uncover major shifts and emerging opportunities with our exclusive PRO research.
Trend Reports
Discover why 900 brands rely on our AI-powered Trend Reports to get better, faster insights.
Newsletter
Join over 250,000 subscribers who rely on our weekly newsletter to keep up with need-to-know trends and insights.
Dashboard
Get special access to premium content, topic tracking and customizable tools through our AI-powered Dashboard.
AI + Human Methodology
Learn how Trend Hunter harnesses the power of artificial intelligence.
Assessment
Enhance your innovation potential with a deeper understanding of your unique innovation archetype and how your organization benchmarks.
eLearning (NEW)
Prepare for the year's ahead with 100+ lessons, tactics, tools and frameworks with our full learning database.
Advisory & Services
Accelerate innovation and ignite disruptive thinking with our award-winning programs and research.
Trend Reports
Get fast, customized trend reports, presentations and deep dives 20x faster than traditional research.
Plans
Get started today with a free consultation, our self-serve tools, or a dedicated program.
Jeremy Gutsche
Ignite your event or virtual event with our CEO, a NY Times Bestselling Author and one of the top innovation keynote speakers.
Our Team of Speakers & Virtual Presenters
Inspire your group with our most popular speakers on innovation, trends, change and futurism.
Custom Training & Events
Bring the Future Festival experience directly to your team or co-hosted custom event.
Contact
Get in touch to learn more, ask a question or submit a tip.
About Us
Learn more about Trend Hunter and how we accelerate innovation.
FAQ
Get answers to common questions about Trend Hunter.
Community
Stay on the cutting-edge with the help of the Trend Hunter community.
Team
Meet the team trusted by hundreds of leading businesses worldwide.
Jobs
Find opportunities to accelerate your career with the #1 Trend Firm.
News
Catch up on noteworthy Trend Hunter news and media mentions.
Join
Build a portfolio and put your trend-spotting abilities to the test.
Advertising
Supercharge your marketing by partnering with Trend Hunter.
Portfolio
Visit your public portfolio and browse your past articles.
Add a Trend
Write up an article and showcase your trend-spotting skills.
My Trends
Edit your articles and see how they stack up on the leaderboards.
Settings
Edit your profile, connect your social media accounts, and more.
Add a trend, customize your dashboard, or track topics.
Future Festival
Innovation Events
Join the world's top innovators at our FREE Virtual events.
Free Webinars
During COVID-19, learn to innovate through chaos, navigate the new normal and maintain work culture from home.
Custom Training & Events
Bring the Future Festival experience directly to your team or co-hosted custom event.
Search our database of 391,635 cutting edge ideas.

Sustainable Ingenuity

Barry Sheldon, President & COO, illy caffé North America
Dylan Morton
September 23rd, 2015

Related Trend Reports

Business, Drinking, Food, Life, Lifestyle, Luxury, Retail, World
Barry Sheldon acts as the President and Chief Operating Officer for illy caffé North America, which is a subsidiary of its parent based out of Italy. Barry is responsible for all functions for the North American division of illy caffé s.p.a. The North American division of illy has been around since 1981, and aims to expand the illy caffé business further into the North American market expanding in world class cities such as San Francisco, Miami and Toronto.

illy caffé pioneered large-scale direct trade with coffee growers 30 years ago, paying a guaranteed profit (not just a market premium) to farmers capable of meeting the company’s high-quality standards. The protocol educated growers on responsible, high-quality cultivation at no cost and vastly improved the quality of yields, first in Brazil, then in eight other coffee growing nations, raising farmers’ incomes as consumers became increasingly willing to pay more for better coffee. illy caffé is the only company to hold a Responsible Supply Chain Certification from Det Norske Veritas, attesting to the company’s ethical and sustainable approach from farm to cup.

Established in 1933, the company has a deep heritage and reputation to uphold.

4 Questions with Barry…

1. What makes an innovative culture? How do you create a culture of innovation?

An innovative culture is fostered when people think in similar ways, creating value at the core of the organization. It has to be embedded in the bedrock of the company. One of the first things illy invented back in 1935 was the modern-day espresso machine. Since this innovation, many firsts have come out of this company, like the industry’s first single-serve paper pod and second generation iper espresso capsule. So innovation is entirely embedded in our core.

We try to foster this culture in North America in a few ways. First is that after every initiative, we conduct a “win, learn and change” debrief, which creates a self-innovating cycle on all facets of our day-to-day business. Another example is our yearly innovation award that we give to an employee who generates an idea that is impactful to our business. These ideas are submitted and reviewed by our executive committee and while there is only one winner, this process has been a source for many amazing ideas.. So again, you must have a foundation of innovation and also foster this culture with different approaches.

2. What is the biggest challenge you face when innovating?

We try to move innovation to the market in the fastest way possible. One of the challenges we often address is that we are a global company and coming up with an innovative idea in North America doesn’t mean it can be applied to other markets around the world. For example, cold brew coffee is popular in North America, but not in other parts of Europe. The big question is how to innovate in one market, and scale it to the others. If I’m in the USA, I must have a perspective with regards to Canada, Mexico and many other markets that could benefit or be impacted.

3. How do you find inspiration or ideas from adjacent industries? Or do you focus only on your category?

Adjacent industries are big for us, especially the digital and tech industry. The media landscape is also a source of inspiration which continues to change dramatically. It has a huge impact on how people discover or hear about new products and specialty coffee is a great example.

Technology combined with the Internet allows for rapid change and at the same time it allows for brands to develop close relationships with their consumers. The notion of crowdsourcing ideas is applied in so many industries, including ours. The technology industry has transformed an entire demographic -- millennials versus the boomers, who weren’t tech-savvy at all making a daily habit like buying a newspaper fairly obsolete for entire generation. So if we aren’t tuned in to the constant changes, we may miss a big idea or great source of inspiration.

Another business we look at for inspiration, which is totally adjacent, is the agricultural side and the innovation we need to collectively utilize to make things more efficient. This innovation is on a highly scientific nature -- how our farmers can continue to get the same yield, and still be extremely conscious about the environment since the Arabica bean is sensitive to fluctuations in temperature and moisture.

4. Looking to the future, how is illy caffé going to be a leader in innovation?

First we have created a long-term view of the business based on our experience and heritage, which will allow us to continue being a thought leader and innovator in the industry.

On another level, we are in 140 countries and can leverage customer data to make informed decisions that lead to innovation. We are also intimately involved with the coffee farmers and that provides a level of understanding that leads to innovation whether creating best in class growing techniques or an approach to getting coffee to customers.

It is an exciting time to be in the coffee business because more and more people are purchasing premium coffee, which creates competition and leads to more innovation. I do believe that leadership and innovation is linked to expertise -- 30 years ago, people would have scoffed at the idea that illy was creating and investing in a sustainable model from plant to cup -- thankfully now it’s the goal of many roasters and coffee brands around the world.
References: illy, linkedin