I recently met communications expert Liat Simha for coffee inTel-Aviv and we discussed food innovation, personalization, 3-D printing, and more…below is a n excerpt of our chat as captured by Liat
Gil, you talk a lot about personalisation in food products. What does that mean?
Horsky: Today’s consumers are demanding special products and new experiences. This new “paradigm of personalisation” is somewhat counterintuitive for big food manufacturers, as they’re all about scale and making the same product faster and cheaper. Yet recently, the fast technological evolution of e-commerce, “big data”, 3D printing of food, and digital printing of packaging opened up new possibilities for food manufacturers in terms of personalising products and packaging in an agile and efficient way. Especially, the “Millennial” demographic expects FMCG’s to enable them to purchase and create personalised product experiences. The drive of the Millennial demographic towards personalisation is linked to sharing one’s possessions and demonstrating social status via social platforms, such as Instagram and Snapchat. For this generation, personalisation is not just a fad—it is, in fact, a way of life. Successful personalisation campaigns can have a big impact on sales and consumer engagement, and should be viewed as part of a brand’s strategy, not just a one-off promotion. For example, the “Share a Coke” campaign enabled Coke to gain 25 million new Facebook followers, and a more than 7% increase in consumption. The campaign was so successful, the company followed up with other, similar campaigns.
What’s the difference between the personalisation and customisation of food?
Horsky: Good question! It’s important to recognise the difference between these, as they are two different things. Personalisation is automatically adaptive; it’s when the product or system you’re using tailors itself to your behaviours, wants, and needs without active input. Customization requires consumer participation, allowing shoppers to manually choose or adjust elements of a product to their preference. My favorite example that demonstrates the difference between the two is that customisation is when you’re getting into your car and you adjust the climate control to the desired temperature. Personalisation is when the car knows it’s you, and then automatically adjusts the climate to suit you.
Please give us a few examples of both of these concepts in action in nutrition, food, and packaging.
Horsky: One would be in the highly emotional engaging snacking category: The Oreo cookie “Colour-filled” platform. It enabled consumers online, with just a few simple clicks, to personalise their beloved Oreo snacks as special gifts. Mondelēz International, the company I work for, owner of the Oreo brand, is able to execute Oreo personlisation in scale, by strong internal e-commerce and fulfillment capabilities, while leveraging the HP Indigo digital printing capabilities. Another great example is a 3-D chocolate printer for chocolatiers and consumers who want to create unique chocolate items as gifts. It can even make a chocolate “selfie”! In the same vein, the Ripples coffee maker, by Steam CC, can get you a selfie printed on the milk foam in your cup of coffee. The system enables you to customise a cup of coffee by printing photos, messages, or any other visual content on the milk foam. This provides consumers with the coffee experience they know and love, but with a surprising, personalised element, that takes the product beyond consumer expectations. Finally, I am very excited about the advancements in science and big data that now enable us to make personalised food and nutrition recommendations that are tailored to an individual’s unique DNA or gut microbiome. This is a relatively new space, with several startups, including Habit Food Personalized LLC—based on DNA, lab results, and body metrics—, and Day Two Ltd., which provides food recommendations to balance blood sugar based on the client’s microbiome. I believe the industry is merely beginning to scratch the surface of the concept of personalised nutrition and that this will impact the entire food chain. In the coming years, we will see a significant jump in science-based solutions for personalised nutrition.
Before you go, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself. How does one become an innovator in the food industry?
Horsky: Working as an innovator in the FMCG industry is a dream job. From a young age, I enjoyed the tactile experience of physical products and the challenge of trying to assess their design, functionality, and what drives people to buy and use them. As I pursued my career interests, it was clear to me that I would focus on marketing and innovation in the FMCG industry. I was specifically attracted to the food industry—what can be a more personal connection to an object than consuming it? Especially, the highly emotional chocolate category which I work in now. I started my marketing career in PepsiCo, in the US the best “marketing school” one could experience. After a few years, I had the fortune to join Kraft Foods—which later split off Mondelēz International—in a global innovation role for chocolate. It has been exciting to create innovation for some of the most iconic global brands, such as: Milka, Cadbury and Toblerone.
What makes you “tick,” personally, as an innovation leader?
Horsky: My real passion is developing products that delight consumers by solving problems or fulfilling unmet needs in their daily lives. The creative process in large corporations is not an easy one, and requires persistence, risk-taking and a strong belief in your vision. It also requires a strong and supportive cross-functional team, as there are going to be many ups and downs along the way. It actually calls for similar traits and skill sets as for entrepreneurs. I think that large corporations should change the title of “innovation manager” to “intrepreneur”, and should aspire to innovate like startups. As an innovator, the biggest moment of pride for me, is when a new product I was directly involved in developing is on shelf and I walk down the store aisle watching consumers pick it up from the shelf or consume it with a smile!