Research & Development: Our Commitment to Innovation (part 1)

Posted On: April 26, 2019

The employees on our Research & Development (R&D) team have some of the most unique and creative jobs around. Imagine getting to experiment (not to mention taste test) with food all day! But don’t let the mental image fool you – it’s hard work!

Our R&D specialists (or Food Technologists, as they are called) take product ideas from concept to commercialization, and their unit is a very exciting place to be. As Jack Patrick, one of the Food Technologists, described it, “The culture has evolved and changed, we’re moving at a faster rate and launching more products. We are challenging ourselves to work differently than we used to.”

Tori O’Neal, a Food Technologist, agrees that the R&D team is unique. “It’s small, almost everyone is on a peer level. Everyone is onboard to help with a project and you get to know everyone really well. You get to see them not only as colleagues, but as friends, and everyone is willing to step in and help share their expertise,” she shared.

When asked what makes working here special, Patrick, a thirteen-year veteran of BAF, responded, “I just really like my job. We have a really good R&D team, it’s a pleasure to work with them every day.”

Veggie Mash

One of the R&D team’s most recent successful product innovations is Idaho Spuds VeggieMash – an ingenious potato product that sneaks in extra veggies without losing any of its delicious flavor. Jack Patrick, Tori O’Neal, and Nick Banuelos were three of the food masterminds who helped to create and market the product.

The idea was born out of a realization that there had not been any new innovation in this category in a long time. According to Nick Banuelos, Sr. Brand Development Manager, everything “new” in the dehydrated potato market was just a repurposed version of itself. It’s usually potatoes with sour cream, potatoes with butter, potatoes with bacon, then rinse and repeat.

The R&D team was already doing a “deep dive” on the Idaho Spuds Mashed Potatoes products, trying to figure out what the consumers wanted in texture, taste, and ease of preparation. Building from those findings, O’Neal met with Patrick and tried to apply those learnings to Idaho Spuds VeggieMash.

At about the same time, the innovation team was realizing that there was a high demand for healthier food options. “We’ve noticed a trend throughout our consumers – they want to eat healthier, but not all of them can or do. This need was not being met by our products,” Banuelos admitted. And that’s how they recognized they needed to offer healthier options to their consumers.

“We took different product ideas and started writing down concepts and flavors. Then we went to the kitchen and started developing the foods we had dreamed up. We came up with 30 concepts, which we presented to marketing and leadership, and then narrowed it down, and took the remaining concepts to consumers, focus groups, and the food service operators,” Patrick explained.

Three different VeggieMash products (Broccoli & Cheddar, Cauliflower & Ranch, and Cauliflower, Butter & Herbs) and a casserole were the final products they landed on. It was the perfect solution to the consumer’s quest for healthier options that were still quick and easy to prepare!

This project was a collaborative effort that balanced, taste, health, and something the consumer will love! “It’s a trend that’s very apparent. We knew our consumers, saw the trend, had the insights, and brought innovation to the category and buyers loved it,” Banuelos shared.

So, what’s next for the R&D team? They’re always working on product innovation and looking ahead for the next problem to solve. Their work is never done!

Join the Team

If Basic American Foods sounds like a great place to work, you’re in luck! We’re looking for more talented individuals to join the team. Click here to see our open positions and help us serve up more mealtime victories every single day!

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