Driving innovation through international inspiration

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Have you ever felt you have depleted your creativity of new food and beverage product ideas? Or your performance review is coming up in 6 months, and you’re not meeting your performance objectives for new product introductions?

Allow me to suggest a way to refresh your creative innovation energies through the inspiration of international food products.

I suggest redirecting your innovation energies through reviewing international food products for several reasons. First, different cultures have favorite foods that are totally different than traditional American cuisine. People in other cultures view food differently than we do. After watching a multitude of Bizarre Food shows on The Food Channel with Andrew Zimmeran, I have gained a whole new appreciation for extreme food products that other people relish in other countries. Looking at international foods causes us to think out-of-the-box.

Second, many international QSR food products are only one or two ingredient away from Unites States versions, but they create a completely new product perception. For example, McDonald’s sells the Deluxe Brekkie Roll in Australia, and Burger King sells a Chicken Nugget Burger in Poland. The Brekkie breakfast sandwich uses a lightly toasted French roll with two layers of cheese, sausage patty, bacon strips fresh cooked egg, and a spicy tomato sauce.

In Japan, McDonald’s sells its Ebi Filet-O Shrimp Burger. Other McDonald’s international products include the McLobster Roll (Canada), Kiwiburger (New Zealand), Little Chorizo Melt (England), Big Roesti Chicken Sandwich (Germany), Mini McChicken Sandwich (Romania), and they serve their burgers with pancetta in ciabatta rolls in Italy.

When it comes to new international product innovation, Starbucks has become a great innovator in the breakfast category. The company serves a breakfast cheese marmite sandwich in the United Kingdom, Belgium chocolate cornflake squares, Coffee Jelly Frappuccinos, and marshmallow on a stick dessert snacks.

Starbucks competitor Dunkin Donuts serves fried donuts with pork and seaweed, mocha ring donuts in Asia, and Kim Chi Croquettes. My personal favorites include Starbucks Marshmallow Twizzles and Panini breakfast sandwiches in the U.K., McDonald’s Big Roesti sandwich in Germany, and the Deluxe Brekkie Roll in Australia.

Third, the insertion of international product concepts onto the American menu reflect a synchronization of international tastes onto our menus – and recognizes the fact that the world is quickly becoming one large international community. For example, Fajita Paneer Grilled Stuffed Burritos and Potato Paneer Burritos served by Taco Bell in India may have strong appeal to U.S. stores in high Indian population areas.

And fourth, certain international food platforms such as a pizza crust can become the foundation for a multitude of new products. Dominos currently sells a wide range of international products using the pizza crust platform, like Kebaba Pizza in France, Laudacievx sandwich (France), Savoyarde Pizza (France), Peppy Paneer Pizza (India), South Korean Triple Cheese Pizza, and a Pasta Carbonara Bowl made from a pie crust type product (another personal favorite).

Food innovation can indeed be driven across U.S. menus through the inspiration of current international food products. Many times U.S. foodservice divisions of international companies fail to appreciate the international concept ideation opportunities because they spend 80 percent of their product development time on the U.S. menu, while leaving the remaining international product development to international franchisee groups.

But for QSR chains to ignore the richness of new product ideas across the international landscape is a risk that will come back to haunt them.

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