Predicting trends, responding to them in a timely manner and developing new products – that is proactive innovation. A relatively new way of working for the people of Cargill. This requires a transition. Martijn Stork, Technical Service Lead at Cargill, explains how he guides his team through this phase. “I invest a lot in real contact and strongly believe in the power of a diverse team.”
What do you think are the most important developments in the food industry?
“Several trends can be observed. Clean label is one of them. In addition, we see the demand for in less sugary and vegan products increasing. Traceability and sustainability are also important themes. But taste, so that consumers can enjoy a delicious product, will always be leading.
What I’m dealing with myself is that our customers expect us to do more innovation on their behalf. Sometimes this means we partially replace a customer’s R&D department, in other cases we complement the R&D team.
Our customers today expect us to have a good understanding of chocolate and cocoa trends, to know local consumer taste preferences, to understand the customer’s product portfolio and to actively participate in ideation.” Ideation is the creative process of generating, developing and communicating new ideas and ultimately launching new products.
In what ways do you anticipate this?
“It asks something of our people. Previously, for example, we were regularly asked if we could replicate a particular product. Very simply put, we were then asked to copy a product. Now we are expected to do different things. That means different skills are needed and we have to change the way we work.
For example, we now spend much more time with our customers. To that end, we have reorganized so that our Technical Account Managers can devote more time to a particular customer. In addition, we are now hiring other types of people; people who have experience with this way of working, with proactive innovation. Also, we have invested a lot in our sensory skills to understand even better how to optimize the taste of our products.”
What is the biggest challenge in your job?
“My team consists of 45 people. Recently, some people left and new people took their place. As a result, some knowledge has been lost and the new people need to be inducted. This is necessary to embrace the new vision. I really enjoy the challenge of taking my people through this and stimulating them. I do that by telling a clear story, so that it is clear to everyone what our vision is and what the plan is to get there.
I invest a lot in real contact, in getting to know the person behind the employee. What motivates someone, what are their talents, what gives them energy? In addition, I strongly believe in a diverse team. By that I don’t just mean the male/female ratio. I have people of 15 different nationalities working within my team. Everyone has their own personality and communication preferences. We learned to give each other feedback in a good way. This has created an open culture, there is trust and everyone is open to learning new things. That makes us, Cargill, better and better at connecting with our suppliers, picking up on trends and becoming more innovative.”