Game Changers

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Harry Barraza, Head of Open Innovation, Arla Foods

Harry Barraza, Head of Open Innovation at Arla Foods Read insights

Arla is innovating toward a goal that is nothing less than “creating the future of dairy” – and is increasingly harnessing small business and academic collaborations to guide the journey.

Its head of open innovation, Dr. Harry Barraza, summarized the practice of innovation at Arla in this unforgettable way: “At Arla, the culture is very exciting – the metaphor we use a lot is that the rate of change is so great that it feels like you are flying a plane, and building that plane at the same time.”

Already the fifth largest dairy company in the world – and the largest organic milk producer in Europe – the Scandinavian-based global co-operative has production facilities in 12 countries, and is engaged in a significant expansion to new global markets.

Following its definition of its Strategy 2020 in December 2015, Arla has announced a leadership restructuring that features an enhanced focus on innovation, including the elevation of Marketing & Innovation to its top executive team.

Just recently, its innovative programs have seized new competitive advantage from the abolition of EU quotas on milk production, while also expanding its manufacturing capacity for other producers.

Arla CEO Peder Tuborgh recently stated that “we need to act local and think global” – which closely echoes a core strategy maxim promoted by BPI – and that the broader goal was “to become the most natural and sustainable global dairy company.”

In just one stunning product of innovation success, the brand’s high protein fermented yoghurt product, “Skyr,” recently won a 2016 Product of the Year award – “the world’s largest consumer-voted award for product innovation.”

The company’s innovation architecture includes divisions such as Arla Foods Ingredients, which won multiple 2014 World Dairy Innovation Awards for its natural mechanism to speed up the ripening of cheese, and for its protein solution for ice creams. It also supports numerous research laboratories, which join with efforts from academic and government scientists.

But the hub of this creative landscape is the product-focused Arla Strategic Innovation Center. Harnessing the skills of over 80 scientists and researchers, Barraza says the Center features a “technology push; consumer pull” innovation approach, in which scientists, marketers and external collaborators work together to develop new products tailored for consumer tastes and needs across global markets.

Also serving as Arla’s Head of Open Innovation, Barraza is a chemical engineer by training who is passionate about collaborations between enterprises, academia and entrepreneurs. He studied intellectual property law to arm himself with a tool that, he says, has since proved critical in his work on open innovation, both at Unilever and now at Arla.

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