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Purely Organic Innovations

Chad Clem, Director of R&D, Applegate
Dylan Morton
July 31st, 2015

Related Trend Reports

Business, Drinking, Food, Health, Retail
Applegate is a company that was established in 1987, specializing in changing the way people eat meat. The company prides itself on providing its consumers with all-natural, organic, GMO-free meats that promise the freshest cuts. Its mission also includes humanely raising animals without antibiotics or hormones. Chad Clem is the Director of Research & Development at Applegate where he has contributed for only 10 months so far, but has already started to leave his mark. He has worked in the food industry for many years and bolsters an impressive resume with regards to food research and its development. His efforts at Applegate include managing a team and inspiring them to think bigger with the amount of passion he brings to the table for his work.

4 Questions with Chad:

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

Building the right team and "getting the right people on the bus" as they say is extremely important when trying to create a culture of innovation. Finding people that exhibit passion for the values that Applegate embodies is a very important factor. This company was built around an entrepreneurial spirit and we go out seeking individuals that share this same passion. I have found that when trying to find that next big innovation, you often can’t crunch data to get to that idea. You must find those people that can evaluate the market and connect the dots to create a product that consumers would never be able to make. I also believe very strongly in blurring the lines between work and fun. When people enjoy being around one another and have passion for their work, it is reflected in their output.

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

Historically speaking, it was bumping up against the traditional marketing research methodology – relying on consumer and market data to drive new product development. If you’re working with a retail branded item, it is always a push and pull war with marketing. True innovation is often not found by evaluating data; it lies in the undefined white space. Unless you work in an environment that encourages a culture of innovation, marketing and senior leaders can often be risk-averse by relying too heavily on the data.

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

In my experience, meat folks typically only focus on the meat-centric industry. Personally though, a lot of my inspiration often comes from outside of the meat market. I will look at the snack food aisle and take a look at what they’re doing to see what trends are popping up. You walk through any grocery store and apply these trends to your own realm, especially with packaging. Usually the food guys tend to lag behind when talking about packaging. It is easy to get inspiration when it comes to that.

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

The Research and Development department at Applegate has really just begun and we have a great team in place. So off the bat, Applegate has had the entrepreneurial spirit since its beginnings. The founders were often the drivers of these innovations and now that they are stepping aside, the R&D team can take the wheel and drive the product innovations of the future. One of the things we are kicking off is an annual innovation fair that we have dubbed "The Barnstorm." The products and ideas that are shared during this session will be strictly R&D-inspired innovation. A lot of times, I feel the marketing team struggles conceptualizing ideas and vague descriptions, so The Barnstorm will provide the forum for sharing out actual prototypes that can be seen, touched and eaten. There are so many things happening around here and everything is changing and adapting rapidly.
References: applegate, linkedin