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The Idea Works – Compass Group's quest to discover exciting and innovative products and solutions

27 April 2012
The Idea Works – Compass Group's quest to discover exciting and innovative products and solutions

The Idea Works, Compass Group's quest to discover exciting and innovative products and solutions, held its first judging session last month. Janie Manzoori-Stamford was there to witness all the pitches

The Hurricone

The pitch
This cordless floor dryer is able dry a floor 90% faster than traditional methods and can cover 177sq ft 360°. Designed to warn people of a wet floor, while at the same time speeding up the drying process, the Hurricone is operated by a rechargeable battery and is designed to reduce slip-and-fall accidents in the workplace.

Wendy Hewitt, sole UK distributor of Hurricone, explains: "I came across this product in the US, where it's widely used in hospitals, restaurants - anywhere with a solid floor and risk of slips and falls.

"It's been in the UK for four years, but the recession was a problem. It can reduce the number of claims and injuries, and since coming out of the recession we sold more in the last three months than we sold last year."

The Q&A
Adam O'Connor Have you any evidence of the Hurricone reducing claims?

Wendy Hewitt Nobody has told us that, but people have bought two and then come back for another 10.

What the judges said
AO Yes
KA Yes
OC Yes
JN Yes

The Outcome
The Hurricone is currently being trialled at two of Compass Group's In Store sites, and it is being monitored by the firm's operations and health and safety teams.

Adam O'Connor says: "This is probably the most exciting product we saw. Health and safety is so important in our business, and I didn't realise how difficult it is to manage areas where we need to clean but allow public access at the same time, such as in our In Store cafés. We think this product could improve our cleaning while also reducing the risk of incidents or slips. We're looking at how we can get more of the product into the business."

Idea works rocket fuel
Idea works rocket fuel
Rocket Fuel Self-Heating Energy Cups

The pitch
High-energy coffee, hot chocolate and soup products with added natural stimulant guarana. Available in 200ml recyclable tin cups, the cans self-heat by generating a small thermal reaction between the inner and outer packaging. Activation is triggered by clicking the base of the cup and shaking the can a few times. The cup heats in three minutes and can remain hot for as long as 20 minutes.

David Brooks, sales director, Food Brands Group, says: "We see this working really well in impulse, food-to-go sales areas. There's a place for it in education and hospitals, or for anyone on the go."

The Q&A
Adam O'Connor Are consumers prepared to pay a hand-crafted coffee price for an instant?

David Brooks The research we've done suggests it is the right way to go. But we're very nimble. If we need to change the product, we can do so very quickly.

Karl Atkins What led you to see the demand for an energy hot beverage?

DB In trying to attract younger people to the hot beverage market, it felt like a way to bridge the gap. That's how the retail birth happened. It has a great opportunity in food service.

What the judges said
AO Yes
KA No
OC Yes
JN Yes

The outcome
Compass Group will be trialling Rocket Fuel Self-Heating Energy Cups in some of its retail stores in May while at the same time working with its team on the marketing and promotional aspects of the brand.

Adam O'Connor says: "The biggest challenge for this product is the branding. How do you communicate the self-heating element of the product on the pack? It's really tough, so we're speaking to some of our experts to find out how we help the consumer understand that it's an instant hot drink in a can."

Hot Diggidy Dog Hot Pepper Sauce

Idea works Hot diggidy Zeblaa
Idea works Hot diggidy Zeblaa
The pitch
The first commercial Welsh producer of chilli pepper sauce, developed by former nuclear submariner Simon Llewellyn. Aimed at filling a gap in the market for an entirely new chilli sauce, HDD comes in a range of flavours. Available in a 57ml bottle for retail and a 300ml bottle for the catering sector, the brand has sold more than 100,000 units in its first 14 months.

Llewellyn says: "It's a very good sauce, and we've found that people particularly love the brand, which we're trying to drive. We've built the company to a stage now where we need to be picked up and driven forward.

"I've worked with a number of chefs, in particular the head chef of the Marriott group, who said he prefers our sauce to Tabasco."

The Q&A
Karl Atkins This is an incredibly competitive category. What makes Hot Diggidy Dog stand out?

Simon Llewellyn Key to our product is the branding. I film a show called Hot Diggidy Dog TV, which airs online, to go along with the Facebook and Twitter presence. The dog, the chilli and the story behind it is where we need to drive it so that people recognise that we're not just another pepper sauce.

Oliver Cock Where do you see this product fitting in food service? If it's in the kitchen, the branding is lost.

SL We see it both in the kitchen and front of house. We've produced some recipe guides but we've also worked with other producers, and the sauce is used in a number of other products. It's not just the branding, but also the taste. It's designed so that you can taste your food first and then the heat comes in.

What the judges said
AO Yes
KA Yes
OC No
JN Yes

The outcome
Compass Group's new product development chef team is currently developing recipes with this product for trial and testing. If successful, the company will look at introducing such recipes into the business, where appropriate, in the autumn.

Adam O'Connor said: "This was one hot product and a great little brand idea, too. We've been trialling the sauce in some of our development concepts for our autumn and winter ranges and we'll be asking our chef teams to give their opinion at a showcase event in July."

Oranka Juice Solutions

Idea works Orange juice
Idea works Orange juice
The pitch
A range of juices, smoothies, ice teas and multivitamin drinks available in 10-litre boxes that can be used with accompanying dispensing systems to deliver bottled-on-site products with in-house branding. The juices can be stored at room temperature unopened for up to 12 months, and the concentrated juice range reduces the storage space required by up to 95%, and less packaging also means up to 95% less waste.

Troy Smith, managing director, says: "The shortest shelf life is three months, and we have a big enough range to suit any particular demographic. The bottles are recyclable and unit managers can fill and fit with a tamper-proof lid."

The Q&A
Karl Atkins My concern is that our competitors and the retailers are already using this product.

Troy Smith Whatever you want to put on it, you can. It becomes your own brand. The brands you already use are in competitors' sites.

What the judges said
AO Yes
KA Yes
OC No
JN No

The outcome
Given Oranka's current usage within the industry, the judges didn't feel that this product fit within the Idea Works initiative and so was out of scope for this project.

Adam O'Connor said: "This product wasn't really true innovation, but the idea is interesting so we're sharing it with our business, but it won't be part of the Idea Works programme."

Jimmy's Iced Coffee

Idea works Jimmys original
Idea works Jimmys original
Jimmy's Iced Coffee was part of the pilot programme for the Idea Works after it was spotted by a Compass site manager. On sampling the product, he put the family-run business in touch with Compass's head of central marketing Adam O'Connor, who saw its potential.

When founder Jim Cregan approached Compass the product was available in a one-litre carton and his company was looking at 500ml cartons for food service. While Compass loved the product, its branding and quality, 500ml was considered too large a pack size; it would be too much for consumers to drink in one go, and it wasn't at the right price point.

Jimmy's worked with its packaging firm to develop a 330ml product, which Compass loved. It helped to get it listed with Brakes and, through Compass Group's vendor assurance team, helped Jimmy's get the necessary accreditations required in the food service industry.

Following this partnership approach and a successful trial at some units, Compass will be launching the product into 100 Restaurant Associates sites in May.

The judges
Adam O'Connor, head of central marketing
Oliver Cock, managing director, commercial
Karl Atkins, head of retail buying
Jonathan Neech, innovations director, group

How to enter

Ideas from small and medium-sized enterprises can be submitted online at www.compass-ideaworks.co.uk where applicants will have the opportunity to upload supporting material such as video, photography and word documents.

They will then be shortlisted into categories before the suppliers behind the best concepts are called to the boardroom to pitch their proposals.

The suppliers will each have a total of 15 minutes for their presentation: five minutes to pitch the idea followed by a 10 minute Q&A session.

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