'Accelerating Meat Possibilities': Hillshire's Sally Grimes on Innovation in Meat

Chief Innovation Officer is Determined to Create New Products

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Blueberry pancakes and sausage on a stick, from Hillshire's Jimmy Dean brand
Blueberry pancakes and sausage on a stick, from Hillshire's Jimmy Dean brand

Sally Grimes took her innovation mindset from markers to meat when she left Newell Rubbermaid, the maker of Sharpies, for Hillshire Brands, whose brands include Jimmy Dean and Ball Park. Now the chief innovation officer is determined to create "the next billion-dollar brand."

A big part of the plan will be to use a new group of premium products, which includes the Aidell's, Callo and recently acquired Golden Island Jerky Company brands, as an incubator program for new Hillshire products. Ms. Grimes recently added the title of president of the division, which is officially called Hillshire Brands' Gourmet Food Group.

"A three-year pipeline will get us to 15% of revenue from innovation by full-year 2015," she said during Ad Age's CMO Summit in San Francisco. "In the coming months, you'll see a big lineup of launches starting in January of 2014."

Her comments come on the heels of an encouraging analyst report from Credit Suisse, which praised several products in the company's innovation pipeline, including Jimmy Dean
pancake/sausage on a stick, its Delights line of egg white muffin sandwiches, and egg and sausage crumble bowls. "These products demonstrate a remarkable amount of creativity and consumer insight," wrote the analysts. "But eating them all in one sitting was probably a mistake."

Ms. Grimes' innovation mantra is "A.M.P.," which stands for "accelerating meat possibilities." Those possibilities have included the creation of Hillshire's first non-meat product.

To foster innovation, the company wants to create an "environment where people are excited to experiment," she said. That now includes "an open modern collaborative space" in Chicago and monthly events called "Snow Days," during which marketing and research and development professionals come together to talk about consumer-related issues.

She spoke with Ad Age about her ambitions for innovation.

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