The Anheuser-Busch innovation machine: more, better and faster new product launches
How reinventing the innovation process drove 50% of the industry innovation volume in ‘18 and ‘19, up from 10% in ‘17
How it started
To meet changing consumer needs in a category with more choice than ever, Anheuser-Busch overhauled their product development process. Since ‘18, they are committed to lead future growth by placing people at the center of innovation. Therefore, Anheuser-Bush North America partnered with InSites Consulting for their yearly Innovation Week, organised for the third time in 2020, to fuel the innovation pipeline with consumer-centered beverages. The goals: reduce typical development flows from 18-24 months to 100 days or less, and drive the innovation volume.
How we inspired change
The Innovation Week (iWeek) takes the AB team (+200 cross-functional participants) out of their comfort zone to fuel ideation with inspiration. For every edition, we set the bar higher to define areas to ideate from. Starting from previous trend and research reports, we introduced creative crowdsourcing via our creator network eÿeka in ‘19.
By truly embracing the power of outside-in thinking in 2020, we engaged with consumers via seven online research communities, each set up to engage with 50 consumers around different opportunity spaces. This generated a rich set of consumer insights to spark new ideas via immersion and ideation workshops at the start of the iWeek. We included consumer-fuelled iterations, in two waves of overnight consumer screening, testing and optimising of +200 new product ideas.
The result was a compilation of consumer feedback, including a quantitative ranking and qualitative suggestions for improvement, via video feedback (VoxPopMe), obtained in just one night. To bring the ideas to life, a team of sketchers and designers helped visualize them.
In 2020, Anheuser-Busch took things even further, focusing not only on idea desirability, but also on feasibility and viability to produce. Before the iWeek, 200 disruptive ideas were crafted and tested in 40+ hours of ideation and six overnight screeners. This allowed for even more AB teams to contribute during the iWeek, from Finance to Supply Chain, delivering ideas that are not only desirable for consumers but will also be successful in the market.
How it lives on
The iWeek approach and the pilot program that resulted from it, led to faster innovation: the process execution – from insight to shelf – was reduced from two years to less than 100 days. Not only is this faster, it also allows the company to launch more new products. Anheuser-Busch’s share of the industry innovation volume grew to 50% in two years, up from 10% in ‘17. In ‘18, more than 40 regional and national products were launched. Moreover, six out of the top 15 share gainers in the industry in ‘19 were owned by AB. Overall, the brand continued to grow topline revenue in the U.S.
Given the success of the program, this approach has also been adopted in other markets, such as China and Canada.
“Overnight, we were able to connect with 3,000 consumers, in only about a 12-hour period. We’re using technology in order to really move faster than we’ve ever moved before, and put consumers at the center in a way we never have before. Even when living and breathing innovation, it’s incredible to see how many new ideas our teams are able to generate. They continue to push the envelope, which really gives me confidence that we can lead future growth.”