Herbalife is bringing a nimble, responsive approach to product development with its upcoming North American Innovation Conference. The conference is a forum for businesses, entrepreneurs and nutrition industry visionaries to present product ideas to top Herbalife executives. The global nutrition company is scouting out novel ingredients and technologies to enhance or extend its existing product lines.
Slated for Oct. 5-6, the Innovation Conference leads up to nutrition industry expo SupplySide West. The expo is the largest gathering of its kind in the world, and this year’s event will feature more than 1,700 ingredient suppliers and finished product manufacturers.
Herbalife is partnering with Nutrition Business Advisors and Nutrition Capital Network to present the North American Innovation Conference, a format launched about three years ago. The company hosts four to five conferences annually, each in a different region of the world. Applicants undergo screening by outside facilitator Nutrition Capital Network and the internal Herbalife team before presenting their ideas.
The company evaluates factors such as a product’s global appeal and how many clinical studies it has undergone, according to Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing, Dr. Luigi Gratton. Ultimately, though, the product has to pass muster with Herbalife’s most important critic—the customer.
“They’re the people who know the marketplace landscape really well—whether a product is too sweet, if Stevia is hot or not, what types of fibers work and so forth,” Gratton explains.
Herbalife’s solution has been to bring its own salespeople to select conferences and give them the opportunity to “Taste the Future.” On the last day, the members test prototypes of the products and provide instant feedback.
“Ideally, that means we hear the pitch, get feedback from our members, spend the next 18 months developing it and roll it out in 2017,” says Gratton. “That is rare, but it’s the dream.”
Herbalife’s take-all-comers approach to innovation extends beyond its conferences. The company often receives product pitches from its members, as well as its employees, who can submit ideas through an internal idea bank. Herbalife processes the submissions through product lifecycle management software accessible to all employees.
“The beautiful thing about product innovation for us is that everyone’s a nutrition expert, because everyone eats,” Gratton notes. “At Herbalife, all ideas are welcome.”