How Beech-Nut innovated within a ‘category in decline’; rigor + speed

dahlenMention the brand Beech-Nut, and most people instantly envision a squat glass jar filled with pureed green beans. You can almost hear the ‘pop’ as the lid is opened, and a hungry baby fussing. Founded in 1891, the company patented the vacuum-sealed jar; it is now part of Hero Group, a privately-held consumer foods company based in Switzerland.

But two years ago, Beech-Nut was forced to confront an unpleasant fact. Traditionally-produced baby food in jars was “a category in decline,” says Andy Dahlen, Beech-Nut’s Vice President of Marketing and Sales. He and Beech-Nut President Jeff Boutelle both joined the Amsterdam, New York company in 2012. “Spending was flat or somewhat up in the category, but when you really looked at the data, the number of ounces per baby was down. You could see that the category was just not meeting needs. We were seeing moms leaving the category, or not entering it at all when they had a baby.”

Dahlen, whose role encompasses product innovation, explained in a recent conversation how Beech-Nut addressed the problem by reinventing its core product.

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