Why Big Companies Can’t Innovate ~ Gerber Singles- Adult Baby Food


Gerber has been synonymous with babies, well, since the company’s inception in 1927. So why Gerber thought that adults would buy something marked Gerber Singles for themselves for dinner is beyond me.

The idea, in 1974, was genius. At this point in time more families were experiencing both parents working, since people were away from their homes for longer, the idea of fast home cooked meals was fantastic. In fact, Hamburger Helper was introduced to the public in 1971, amongst other still produced fast dinner options. But what went wrong for Gerber?

 ImageFirst of all, the packaging should of hid the brand name of Gerber, or at least put it in small font on the back of the label. It also should have said something along the lines of a ‘quick, healthy meal for busy adults’. So at least the customer almost knew what the purpose of the mystery mush in the jar was.

Secondly, Gerber should have put more thought process into what the final product was going to be. By placing baby food in a jar and giving it a fancy name, it didn’t really represent the original idea of a ‘quick healthy meal for adults’.

Needless to say, the product was pulled from food store shelves and returned to Gerber within 3 months.

How did such a big corporation blow such a big idea? Gerber was a baby food company, they were making money selling baby food, and they were hoping that by slapping on a new label they could bring in a different scope of the market. As with all larger corporations there is a fork in the road when it comes to a new avenue: can you make more money doing the same thing that you already do without having to throw any more money at it or do you invest in the idea to its fullest and create a new spin on what you are already good at doing?

Gerber went the route of attempting to create a new line without investing in it and the product backfired. Today, Gerber makes toddler food trays with separate vegetables and pastas, I could see those meals being created in a larger tray form and geared toward adults- perhaps they should re-visit this idea today.

Odwalla on the other hand is a company who decided to go the latter route, they stepped out with innovation, researched and created a smoothie and cereal bars. Instead of just marketing the juice they already made, and labeling it something else, Odwalla put money into their ideas, researched and marketed successful new products.

Now the route to getting a new product within your organizations isn’t cut and dry. There are many factors that all decisions rely on such as profit margins, stock holders and profit growth. If you’re a publicly traded company you may not have to ability to convince the shareholders to make a little less now so that they can potentially more in the future. Established companies can only innovate if everyone is on board. If the executives aren’t up for change, then the company needs to stick with what it does best, making money at what it already does, without innovation.


Persona Pain-Gain Map (Anything but Mint Toothpaste)

Our team’s new business idea is to create an anything but mint flavored toothpaste.  Let’s face it, not everyone likes mint, or mint mixture flavors, so why do toothpaste companies make everyone buy into this flavor?

My individual spin on this idea is not for a new flavor, but a flavorless toothpaste!

Let’s take Anne for example, a 25 year old business professional who’s health conscious and hates mint. She has tried many types of toothpaste and hates the fact that toothpastes are either mint or mint mixed flavors as well as artificially flavored and filled with artificial colors. Most mornings she wakes up, brushes her teeth first, gets dressed, and then makes breakfast to take to eat on the 30 minute commute into work.  Anne has learned that if she brushes her teeth right when she wakes up, the awful flavor of mint has worn off by the time she goes to eat her breakfast about 40 minutes later. But, on days like today, when somehow she has forgotten to set her alarm clock and she is late waking up, Anne knows there is no way she will be able to enjoy her breakfast if she rushes to brush her teeth and get ready. Should she skip brushing her teeth, or should she brush her teeth and not enjoy her breakfast routine?

What if we could offer Anne a flavorless toothpaste?  Without a flavor, Anne could brush her teeth and eat right away if she liked, as there would be no lingering tastes in her mouth. Also by eliminating flavors, whether natural or artificial, there would be no need to add artificial food coloring to the toothpaste to match the color to the flavor. With flavorless toothpaste we could satisfy both of Anne’s needs in regards to taste as well as her mind set in being health conscious.