Victoria Spadaro Grant our President of Innovation and Commercial Development (ICD), joined us in November 2020. In our Annual Report 2021, she shares her initial impressions about the business and reviews the year.
HOW HAS ICD SUPPORTED OUR PURPOSE, IMPROVING LIVES FOR GENERATIONS, THIS YEAR?
Our purpose is at the heart of what we do, inspiring us to improve lives all day, every day. In particular, it’s about supporting healthy living, and whether it’s through the launch of our Sweetener and Fibre Universities during the year, or our online webinars, we are constantly looking for new ways we can support our customers.
This close relationship with our customers is also helping to deliver results with a 21% growth (in constant currency) in revenue from New Products this year. As well as looking after the present, ICD’s role is to design what the future looks like. And in line with our purpose we need to do that in a sustainable way.
The ingredients we design, the processes we design – everywhere we have an impact we need to consider sustainability. That’s why I’m particularly pleased about our new acquisitions this year. With stevia and tapioca, we’re not only diversifying the raw materials we use, but also providing more plant-based options for our customers and, in turn, helping consumers have healthier, more balanced diets.
HOW HAS COVID-19 AFFECTED THE MARKET THIS YEAR?
I’d point to three key things. One is a polarisation between premium and value. With more people eating at home during lockdown, we saw an increase in some premium sectors. At the same time, with others worried about their jobs or struggling financially, there was also an increase in demand for affordable food – such as smaller pack sizes of favourite products. The second is a resurgence of established, traditional brands. In times of crisis, many people revert to brands they trust.
With pressure on supply chains and retailers having trouble keeping their shelves full – whether online or in stores – many food companies rationalised by reducing the number of products they offer. As a result, there was less desire to innovate and customer launches slowed down.
Customer innovation will increase as we move beyond the pandemic, but it won’t happen overnight. The third trend is again two opposites – indulgence and wellbeing. As we come out of the pandemic, we’ll see people wanting to celebrate and indulge while, at the same time, Covid-19 has made people realise the importance of a healthy diet to wellbeing. And that’s set to continue.
WITH FEWER CUSTOMER LAUNCHES AS A RESULT OF COVID-19, HOW HAS THE ICD PIPELINE SUCCEEDED IN GROWING?
Our innovation pipeline is fuller than ever and grew in value by 18% during the year. That’s because we collaborate very closely with our customers throughout the innovation process, and our solutions and technical expertise give them what they need – low-calorie, reduced-sugar, clean label, non-GM and plant-based options. I’m particularly proud of the nutrition team’s launch this year of our new digital Nutrition Centre.
It offers expert insights, research and educational tools for customers, scientists, health professionals – in fact anyone who’s interested. It’s an open platform which is rare in our industry, and so, I believe, it shows Tate & Lyle as a thought leader in the field, while helping us develop even closer relationships with customers.
OUR FUTURE WHERE DO YOU SEE OUR BIGGEST OPPORTUNITIES?
Customers must be our focus, and food and beverages our obsession. The team has worked really hard to find creative ways to help customers during lockdown, and we’ve got closer to them as a result. As we come out of the pandemic, we need to capitalise on those relationships and make sure we’re even more customer-focused than before. And we need to step up how we think about food, to become even more focused on the end product.
Food is about taste, wellbeing, conviviality – if we can demonstrate more of that, we’ll have an even greater meeting of minds with our customers.
HOW HAVE YOU FOUND JOINING TATE & LYLE DURING LOCKDOWN?
I’m amazed at how well it’s gone despite only having met in person a few of the people I work with! And that’s because of the calibre of people at Tate & Lyle, and how they’ve integrated me into the team.
The breadth of talent across the whole company is outstanding. There is a real mix of experience and backgrounds which brings a lot of diverse thinking and makes the business vibrant and interesting. The other thing that I’ve found inspiring is the absolute focus on safety, more so than I’ve experienced before. And not just safety at work, but also driving safely and safety at home. That really speaks to the care people have for each other.
Find out what else we’ve been up to over the past year in our Annual Report 2021 hub
Download a copy of the Annual Report 2021 below