Formed about a year ago as a stand-alone meat-focused marketer, Hillshire Brands has put a big emphasis on innovation, rolling out a host of new products, from bourbon-seasoned ham to chicken meatballs flavored with habanero and green chile.
The woman leading the charge is Sally Grimes, who joined the company as chief innovation officer last year after a stint at Newell Rubbermaid where her work on the Sharpie brand won praise. Ad Age recently caught up with Ms. Grimes to find out what she is up to at Hillshire. Hear more from her at Ad Age's CMO Strategy Summit in San Francisco on Oct. 16, where Ms. Grimes will speak about the company's innovation strategy.
Ad Age: Where do you draw inspiration for new products?
Ms. Grimes: It really starts with consumer empathy and intimacy. ... [That means] not just behind the focus group glass, [but] it's immersive techniques to really shop with consumer, make dinner with consumers and be in their homes. When you understand that context, that's a much stronger starting point and much more inspiring for innovation.
Ad Age: How are eating habits changing?
Ms. Grimes: Gone are three square meals per day. The average American eats 4.9 meals per day. The other interesting stat is that the majority if Americans spend a total of 27 minutes on meal prep for an entire day. … The way consumers are eating today is completely different, and what that means when it comes to meat-centric, or protein-centric foods, is that we have to ensure that they deliver against what we call spontaneous consumption opportunities. So that is where we are working on convenience, portability, smart shortcuts [and] time-saving opportunities to ensure the consumer can get that 'cravability' they have for meat into their new lifestyle.
Ad Age: Oscar Mayer recently introduced a bacon hot dog. Will Hillshire follow?
Ms. Grimes: We always ask what's next. It's a constant, constant question that we ask here. I am thrilled by our innovation pipeline and I am excited to keep the innovations coming. [But] I will say no comment on that [bacon hot dog] possibility.