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Author's profile photo John Ward

Hillshire Brands is Serving Up Something New for Breakfast

Would you describe the sausage you had at breakfast this morning as provocative? If not, then you probably weren’t enjoying Jimmy Dean Pancakes & Sausage on a Stick./wp-content/uploads/2014/07/273095_l_srgb_s_gl_502419.jpg

Sausage on a stick is just one of the many fresh ideas to come from the folks at The Hillshire Brands Company – the Chicago-based food company well-known for such iconic brands as Jimmy Dean, Ball Park, and Hillshire Farm.

And for the last year or so, Hillshire Brands has been laser focused on delivering new products to market that the company’s Chief Executive Officer Sean Connolly describes as “contemporary, relevant, and provocative.”

Passionate about Innovation

Among the latest Hillshire Brands foods you’ll find on store shelves are flatbread sandwiches, breakfast bowls, spicy chicken meatballs, and smoked sausages made with premium Angus beef.

All these products are aimed at helping Hillshire Brands remain a leader in a global industry expected to soon be worth US$799 billion. And the company’s goal is to achieve 13% to 15% of its retail sales as a result of new innovation by the end of fiscal year 2015.

Inspiration and Execution

So what are the key ingredients of a successful product launch in the food industry? Start with a great idea, naturally. But then get that new product on store shelves as quickly as possible.

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Hillshire Brands’ Supply Chain Procurement Team, about the importance of innovation in the company’s procurement operations. “One of the things we always talk about in our supply chain is how we can get products to the marketplace even faster,” they told me, “especially when we have such competition in our industry around new offerings.”

As the Procurement Team pointed out, Hillshire Brands relies on many suppliers to get the ingredients and packaging needed for its products. So improving collaboration with these critical vendors can go a long way in accelerating time to market.

Hillshire Brands recently used the SAP SNC Supplier Collaboration rapid-deployment solution to quickly boost the efficiency of its supply chain. Among the project’s specific goals were providing greater visibility throughout the vendor network and getting suppliers more involved in the materials planning processes.

Since the rollout, vendors have 24×7 access to demand and forecast information, which lets them plan proactively and respond faster to production changes. Sales and marketing organizations can also work more effectively with both plant managers and suppliers to ensure that everything is in place to support an upcoming promotion or product launch.

More Fresh Thinking

“Our focus over the next two years will be on ramping up supplier managed inventory,” the team members explained. The Procurement Team believes sharing the responsibility for managing materials with suppliers is a key to reducing the company’s overall inventory. And Hillshire Brands plans to have suppliers themselves manage up to 80% of the inventory in some areas.

As Hillshire Brands sees it, a leaner, more efficient supply chain is a supply chain optimized for continued innovation.

Never thought of sausages and hotdogs as provocative? Better think again.

Learn more about rapid-deployment solutions from SAP, and be sure to join me on Twitter at @JohnGWard3.

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