Innovation has an important place in business and product development – and can be critical in forging a competitive advantage through understanding consumers, competitors and the market environment.

Innovation can occur at any stage of business operation and product development and it is important to be constantly monitoring your business operations for opportunities to innovate. Creating innovative new products and processes can create opportunities to discover new markets and increase your production and profitability by improving production or delivery methods. It could be as simple as changing your software or tweaking a technique. Ask yourself:

  • When did you last develop a new product?
  • Have you looked at innovative packaging?
  • Do you need help to commercialise an inspired idea?
  • Do you need help with recipe formulation?
  • Is your technology the most efficient in production?

Fresh ideas and innovative thinking help build strong new brands and products. Continual improvements to processes ranging from processing to packaging, distribution and marketing also helps the industry quickly respond to consumer trends, such as the growing focus on health and wellbeing,  traceability of ingredients, ethical animal husbandry and environmental sustainability for example, all offer opportunities to add value and profit to your business as well as improving convenience and value for money for your consumer.

Businesses can also look to work with other businesses – either in their industry or along the value chain – to spread the costs and risks of innovation.

There are many examples of innovation in response to market trends:

  • changing to a completely new crop or a new variety in response to market  trends (for example the introduction of canola, quinoa and chia as premium food crops in recent years)
  • introducing a new machine or processing procedures
  • developing new products or new versions of existing products
  • introducing environmentally friendly packaging
  • reworking portion size or presentation
  • identifying new distribution channels
  • finding a way to establish a direct relationship with your end consumer

Intellectual property

As your business grows, so too will the importance of managing your intellectual property (IP). The laws that give individuals and businesses exclusive rights over their creative and inventive projects are complex because intellectual property can be difficult to define and ownership has to be proven. It is important to get experienced and qualified legal advice on intellectual property, particularly to protect any innovations in production you may have instigated that could be copied by others, however to qualify, the process or product must be able to be proven to be truly innovative.

The value chain

Understanding and managing value chains can be critical to the development of the agrifood and wine industries in this state. This approach to understanding the industry can be a great benefit in your business planning too.

Essentially, understanding your value chain involves identifying and understanding the individual processes or activities by which you add value to your product. These include the steps in production, marketing and customer service. At each step in the process value is added. It can be quite surprising to identify the points in the process at which the highest value is added. Assessing your value chain includes assessing your business partners such as suppliers, distributors and customers. Knowing where the real value is helps you plan for resourcing your business systems accordingly and will also act as a guide to potential financial consequences of making a change to your business systems.

Who can help?

Government support

Government investment in research, development and innovation is vital for ongoing growth and improvement in the productivity, profitability, competitiveness and sustainability. National spending on primary industries research and development is estimated to be over $1.3 billion per annum.

Other programs also address important national development and sustainability objectives, such as biosecurity and natural resource management.

The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) works together with Food SA, collaborating with staff of the other partners of the centre to assist food businesses in the development of new products and in business development. SARDI encourages and supports the growth of the South Australian food sector by providing advice and technical services that help businesses gain and sustain a competitive edge through innovation. Their experts can help:

  • promote the uptake of new technologies, management systems and skills while building export capabilities
  • provide commercialisation support for new and emerging industries
  • assist in developing new products and services for existing or prospective marketsdeveloping and launching new productsimproving processing and packaging efficiency
  • assisting in best practise and technology transfer
  • innovative marketing and supply chain systems
  • accessing Research and Development
  • innovating business processes and systems
  • improving food safety and integrity

The South Australian Research and Development Institute’s Food Innovation and Value Chain program provides technical support and research capability in food processing to the South Australian food industry. Food Technologists also on hand to assist businesses identify issues and find solutions in the areas of new product development, process improvement, packaging, trouble shooting and technical issues.

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