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Pursuing Innovative Stardom

Daniel Pancotto, Brand Promotion & Communication, S&D Coffee & Tea
Dylan Morton
July 23rd, 2015

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Entertainment industry veteran Daniel Pancotto works as the Director of brand promotion and communications for S&D Coffee & Tea, and has been with the company for over a year. Through his hard work and effort, he has been able to truly leave his mark on a brand with a remarkable history behind it. He is currently focused on a new product the brand recently launched called MilkSplash. In short, it is a natural zero-calorie milk flavoring. Currently bolstering over 10 flavors, it prides itself on offering a premium milk flavoring with great taste and no added calories. As a company, S&D does a lot of B2B work and boasts being the “biggest coffee company you have never heard of." Established in 1927, S&D Coffee & Tea is taking off with its innovative products and is showing no signs of slowing down.

4 Questions with Daniel:

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

In simplest terms, it’s our people. Management here at S&D gives its employees a great deal of autonomy within the structure of sound business principles. Expectations are high, but so is freedom to tackle problems creatively. People are given a lot of room to play and come up with innovative solutions. It’s a highly collaborative environment and I think that has been a major factor in fostering creative thinking.

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

Externally, the biggest challenge is getting people to see what we already know internally. For MilkSplash, it’s not only a new product, it’s also something that reimagines and (hopefully) redefines the category of flavored milk. Not only do we have to get the word out about MilkSplash, we also have to move the markers on what it means when you talk about flavored milk. The first generation iPod (and iMac and iPhone…) was a much tougher sell for Apple than subsequent versions and that’s essentially where we are with MilkSplash. It’s something we are really excited about and we are trying to tap into that unrealized demand. With countless screens and noise vying for consumer attention, you really have to fight to get your product noticed.

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

We try to look everywhere. We definitely rely on intelligence within our own industry, but we are always looking for new ways to continuously improve our products and a lot of that inspiration comes from outside the box of traditional thinking. We recently hired an Executive Chef, Eric Nakata, who has an incredibly diverse background that has provided us with all sorts of inspiring thought leadership in the kitchen. On the other side of that coin, our sustainability expert, Tracy Ging, can take her expertise from that field and apply it in a very direct way to improving our product and our processes. It’s all about continuing to look in new directions and then filtering that information through the right lens.

4. Looking to the future, how is S&D Coffee going to be a leader in innovation?

It really comes down to our products and our people. The thought leaders we have brought in and the ideas that these minds are cooking up in the kitchen are just incredible. At the end of the day, it’s not one product that will bring you long-term success; it’s a mindset. We are always looking for a better way to do things, throughout the whole supply chain. I think a British cycling coach coined the phrase, "Aggregation of marginal gains." It's the little things here and there that will put us ahead. Individually, one process improving by 1% doesn’t look like a whole lot, but if we can realize 10 of those over a two year span, collectively you’ve made some big improvements that result in better products and savings to our customers.
References: sdcoffeetea, linkedin