What’s Brewing at Starbucks’ Innovation Division

Posted by IFMA October 26, 2012

Tagged in Center of Innovation Excellence Foodservice Innovation Foodservice Operators New Product Development

Starbucks is one of the Founding Members of IFMA's Center of Innovation Excellence (CIE) and a world-recognized leader in innovation. If you have ever wanted the chance to pick a Starbucks' executive's brain on how they excel in innovation, now's your chance. In this exclusive interview, Mary Wagner, SVP Global Research, Development & Quality at Starbucks Coffee Company, tells all to IFMA.

IFMA: Why is innovation important to Starbucks?

MW: At Starbucks, we do not purposefully set out to be
'innovative'. Rather, we aspire to be a company of people that share a common passion to create the ultimate coffee
experience. Our customers are the best judge of what that experience should be and so we are continually responding to their desires and ideas. This naturally compels us to improve our products, services and technologies. It also drives us to think on entirely new levels - 'new-to-company' and even 'new-to-world' products, services and technologies. The most genuine way to keep our current and future customers happy is by innovating - that is why innovation is so important to Starbucks.

IFMA: What is your most important strength when it
comes to innovation?

MW: This is an easy one - our partners are our most important strength (at Starbucks, we call our employees 'partners'). We are very fortunate to attract and keep good talent at Starbucks. Over the years, we can cite specific examples of partners that have led successful new product and technology innovations, even 'breakthroughs'! In addition to strong leadership, we are good collaborators - across functions and businesses - we foster a real team approach to innovation.

IFMA: What is Starbucks' biggest innovation challenge?

MW: We have two big innovation opportunities and
both initiatives are underway right now.


IFMA: Let's start with the first opportunity.

MW: We set out on a journey to closely examine the 'pockets of innovation excellence' occurring throughout Starbucks in order to learn and understand why we were enjoying success in specific areas. We sought answers to questions like 'What leadership characteristics do our most successful innovators have? Why are they so successful?' and, 'What do their teams do differently?' We conducted some internal benchmarking with help from the folks at Stage-Gate International. Together, we identified several internal best practices that made good sense to implement with all of our business leaders and innovation teams globally. My goal is to help Starbucks transform its innovation capability to move beyond 'pockets of success' occurring periodically, to a global organization delivering consistent, predictable innovation success….

IFMA: What about the second opportunity?

MW: I can't help but chuckle when I explain that our second initiative is the reward we get for becoming really good at thinking innovatively! But it's true! We have no shortage of really, really good ideas. We receive thousands of ideas for new products, services and technologies from our customers, partners and our suppliers. It's exciting and energizing! However, our ability to generate so many good ideas has created a need for us to be even better at something else - prioritization! So, the second initiative is establishing a way to prioritize and select projects that will contribute most to our business strategies. Making tough go/kill decisions is very difficult to do and so we looked to the folks at Stage-Gate International for advice on key external benchmarks and practices.

And, given the importance of preserving Starbucks' entrepreneurial culture, we worked together to customize gate scorecards, prioritization criteria and portfolio charts so they worked well for our needs.

IFMA: What has Starbucks gained by participating in IFMA's
Foodservice New Product Development Process Benchmarking Initiative?

MW: At Starbucks we have an insatiable appetite for new knowledge, especially when it comes to improving our ability to innovate new products. If there is a way we can improve our results, we want to know about it. As a leader of product innovation, being on top of industry benchmarks helps me to stay ahead of the innovation performance curve.

IFMA: What is your favorite new product?

MW: A tough question, as I like so many! I would have to say my favorite is probably always the most recent one to launch…in this case Refreshers™! This new beverage offers a unique innovation for a cold beverage made from green coffee extract! Very refreshing and crave-able. I must drink at least two
Grande refreshers a day from our internal Starbucks store! Awesome!

The CIE Phase 2 report focuses on how Performance Metrics, Process and Stages Used, Governance and Gatekeeping Approaches and Collaboration play in product success. The study is available to members and non-members and is applicable to any level of innovation sophistication. Order TODAY!

Login To Gain Access To This Content
Dec 07

Strategic Issues Series Webinar

Meal Kits: What Do They Mean for Foodservice?

Time: 1:00-2:00pm CST               CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW


Best Practices for Foodservice New Product Development Revealed

IFMA's Center of Innovation Excellence has revealed four new Best Practices for Foodservice New Product Development (NPD). These practices come in the form of actionable tools that can be easily implemented into any current or developing new product process. Find out how they can help you improve your new product development process.

Foodservice Innovation Benchmarks & Best Practices

According to a new report by Stage-Gate International and IFMA, nearly 50% of new product projects are failing to meet business performance objectives. The good news is this does not have to be the norm, because a formula for better performance exists. Read on to find out about the foodservice industry's first comprehensive guide to performance benchmarks and best practices for successful new product development.

Excerpt: Chapter 1 of CIE's Foodservice New Product Development Process: Performance Benchmarks

Get a sneak peek into the content shared in Chapter 1 of Foodservice New Product Develpment Process: Performance Benchmarks, part of CIE's Phase 2 initiative.

Introducing IFMA TV: Your Trusted Resource for Foodservice Education, Inspiration & Industry Engagement

For more than 60 years, IFMA has been a leading resource for the foodservice industry to share new ideas and inspiration to solve industry-wide challenges. In today’s fast-paced, dynamic foodservice environment, this need for access to industry thought leaders and best-in-class examples has never been greater. Introducing IFMA TV.

Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili’s, Mellow Mushroom and Whataburger Named 2016 IFMA COEX Innovation Award Recipients

CHICAGO, JANUARY 29 , 2016—The International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA), which provides leaders in the $600 billion foodservice industry with connections, insights and best practices, announced four chain operators have been named IFMA COEX 2016 Innovation Award recipients. Representatives from Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili’s, Mellow Mushroom and Whataburger will each receive their awards at the IFMA Chain Operators EXchange (COEX) conference taking place in Las Vegas March 6-8.

Pumpkin Beverage LTOs Drive up Business for Foodservice Operators

Limited-Time Offer (LTO) pumpkin specialty drinks benefit operators in more ways than one, according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company. The seasonal beverage offers can spur additional purchases by established customers, bring in new customers, draw customers from competitors, and stimulate business during slow periods, according to research from NPD’s Checkout Tracking™, which harvests receipts from more than 35,000 diners to track consumer purchase behavior.

J. Walker Smith Comments on Unique Foodservice Trend

As executive chairman of The Futures Company, J. Walker Smith is considered one of the leading analysts on consumer trends. Mr. Smith noted in a January/February 2014 Restaurant Briefing article that consumers are demonstrating less interest in controlling how operators bring their concepts to market; rather, they want the industry to understand them and take the lead in creating concepts and products they want. Learn more about key trends Mr. Smith envisions for the foodservice industry. Attend COEX 2015 March 1-4 in Las Vegas to hear Mr. Smith share these visions in person. 

Do You Have WIIFW Partnerships With Your Suppliers?

Kate Vitasek shared the Vested® model, of deep collaboration, developed at the University of Tennessee during Presidents Conference 2013. Vested is a mindset of focusing on what's in it for "we" instead of what's in it for me; is a methodology and rules; and is a movement where companies play a different game by adopting new habits and business models.

Q & A with Sodexo: Preferred Traits of Small/Midsized Suppliers

The IFMA Small & Midsized Business committee hosts a discussion for the community of small/midsized business IFMA members. In June Ann Oka, Senior Vice President, Supply Management for Sodexo joined us to provide insight on what Sodexo looks for in supplier partners and participants asked questions to learn more about doing business with Sodexo.

Mark your calendar: IFMA 2013 Events

IFMA hosts a variety of events throughout the year that enable members to connect with peers and trading partners and focus on important issues facing the industry. From forums that inspire connectivity and collaboration across the channel to market insight conferences that keep you informed about trends and issues, IFMA offers a variety of ways for you stay ahead.