PUTTING THE YUM INTO CRAVEABLE WITH MENU INNOVATION AND NEW PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT.
What does it take to bring a menu item idea to life? As *Craveable Brands’ Head of Menu Innovation Kirsten Chessor, says that whilst there are many complex factors involved the main objective is always the same:
“Whatever we deliver, we always want the food to be ‘craveable’, quite literally.”
A highly experienced QSR manager, Kirsten heads up the New Product Development (NPD) team. She is in the all-important role of bringing new food products to life by making them commercially viable.
“We’ll get an initial new product brief from marketing, and then contact suppliers, sample multiple versions of each ingredient or product, go through operational compliance, conduct store tests, make sure it’s executed correctly. We manage and monitor all the different processes in the chain to bring a product to market”, she explains.
It can be quite a lengthy process, taking anywhere from 6 to 18 months to bring a new product to fruition depending on its complexity.
“There always has to be strategic intent and rigour behind what we do,” Kirsten says. “Ideas for new products are plentiful, however, we have to first justify the product need through consumer research, brand fit, look at the competition and consider whether the idea is insights driven. We don’t just come up with a new idea because someone likes the taste of something or thinks it’s cool.”
How to stand out
Kirsten says her team do weekly tastings (nom nom) and that a new product may go through 10 or more rounds of sampling by different people.
“If we are putting out a spicy sauce for example, then at a point we might bring in consumers to do a sensory tasting test just to see if we’ve got the right level of heat,” she explains.
Nothing happens by chance or accident – think about that next time you’re enjoying a chicken nugget or biting into a burger!
She adds that there is always ongoing product innovation taking place. With three different chicken brands keen to put their own stamp on the market, and equally keen to impress and entice customers, Kirsten sure has her work cut out for her.
“This is a very dynamic and competitive industry. Each one of our brands needs to stand out. You need things that spark interest and I’m proud that so many of our items have done that by being delicious and unique.”
PASSIONATE – METHODICAL – SOLUTIONS FOCUSED
Kirsten began her QSR career at a 17-year-old working as a kitchen-hand for Yum!’s Pizza Hut back in her home city of Brisbane. She then completed a degree in management and marketing at the Australian Catholic University in Brisbane and moved to Sydney for a corporate career with Yum! She eventually rose to the position of Senior Brand Manager before joining Craveable in 2015.
“Moving to Sydney in my early 20s was a huge deal. Leaving behind family, friends and everything I knew, however it was great for building my character and career. Joining Craveable after my years with Yum! was also challenging, however it was an opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone of marketing and try something new. At the time Craveable was starting to really evolve and the chance to make a difference in such a passionate, growing organization and interact with so many talented people was hugely appealing.”
Admitting that she’s very methodical “some would say a bit of a perfectionist!” Kirsten says working in such a pivotal role is immensely rewarding “At the end of the day we’re a food and people business, so for me it’s all about the food.”
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* Craveable Brands is the owner operator of Red Rooster, Oporto and Chicken Treat