More, better and faster new product launches for Anheuser-Busch

Anheuser-Busch reinvented its innovation process and drove 50% of the industry innovation volume in the last two years, up from 10% in 2017. The three-year innovation project received the 2020 ESOMAR Research Effectiveness Award Silver Trophy.

The challenge

To meet changing consumer needs in a category with more choice than ever before, Anheuser-Busch overhauled their product development process in 2018, making a commitment to lead future growth by placing people at the center of innovation.  To fuel the innovation pipeline with consumer-centered beverages, Anheuser-Bush North America partnered with InSites Consulting for their yearly Innovation Week, organized in 2020 for the third time. The goals of the innovation week’s program: bring typical development flows down from 18-24 months to 100 days or less, and drive innovation volume.

Our solution

The Innovation Week (iWeek) takes the AB team (more than 200 cross-functional participants) out of their comfort zone, to fuel ideation with inspiration. Each edition, we set the bar higher to define areas to ideate from.

  • Starting from previous trend and research reports to define insight platforms, we introduced creative crowdsourcing via our global creator network eÿeka in 2019 to get fresh new ideas.
  • In 2020, we embraced the power of outside-in thinking in 2020 engaged with consumers via seven online research communities. This led to a rich set of consumer insights to spark new ideas via immersion and ideation workshops at the start of iWeek. We included consumer-fueled iterations, by organizing two waves of overnight consumer screening, testing and optimizing of over 200 new product ideas. The result? A compilation of consumer feedback, including quantitative ranking and qualitative suggestions on how to improve via video feedback, obtained in just one night. To bring the ideas to life, a team of sketchers and designers were available to help visualize them.

In 2020, Anheuser-Busch took things even further, by not only focusing on idea desirability, but also on feasibility and viability to produce. Before iWeek, 200 disruptive ideas were already crafted and tested in 40+ hours of ideation and six overnight screeners. This allowed for even more AB teams to contribute during iWeek, from Finance to Supply Chain, and resulted in ideas that are not only desirable for consumers but can also be launched successfully in the market.

Overnight, we were able to test the ideas 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 the confidence that we can lead future growth.

Jake Kirsch, VP Innovation at Anheuser-Busch

Impact

The iWeek approach and pilot program that follows lead to faster innovation: the process used to take almost two years, from insight to shelf, and can now be executed in less than 100 days. This is not only faster, but it also allowed the company to launch more new products, as Anheuser-Busch’s share of the industry innovation volume in the last two years increased to 50%, up from 10% in 2017. Furthermore, the program has also been adopted in other markets, such as China and Canada.

They went from taking two years on average to develop and launch a new product to now doing so in 100 days. More than 40 regional and national products were launched in 2018. In 2019, they had six out of the top 15 share gainers in the industry. Overall, they continued to grow topline revenue in the U.S.

Sometimes we think there’s no more ideas within beer. But I think this week has really identified some great opportunities within beer. It just energizes the people that are working on the brands, the people that are associated with the brands. Folks leave this week with that energy and positive feeling.

Pat McGauley, Anheuser-Busch Innovation Alumni