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J.M. Smuckers; Rules of Innovation

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J. M. Smuckers: Rules of Innovation Family-owned businesses are often thought to be small, store-front operations with little chance of growth. However, many of today’s nationally and internationally-recognized brands have their foundations as localized, family-run businesses. Few, however, can boast that they still maintain the same family leadership and have grown to become a Fortune 500 company like the J.M. Smuckers Company. From its inception in 1897 as a cider and apple butter purveyor to the international brand and licensor of multiple food products such as coffee, peanut butter, and baking mixes that it is today, Smuckers has always had a Smucker at its helm (Gunther, 2010). The culture of strong leadership instilled in the company early on has permitted them to exemplify Davila, Epstein and Shelton’s (2013) seven rules of innovation while sustaining and growing their company. This paper will outline how Smuckers has implemented innovations in line with these rules of innovation.
Innovation in Line with Business Strategies Historically, Smuckers stuck with producing only fruit-related products (Gunther, 2010). This business strategy allowed them to grow and expand globally by purchasing similar companies (fruit and jelly brands) in other countries (Gunther, 2010). However, when sales began to stagnate, a new, more aggressive strategy was devised to focus outwardly on acquiring other brands that were of central focus in most supermarkets (Gunther, 2010). Over the course of the past decade, Smuckers has acquired major brands such as Jif, Crisco, Hungry Jack, Pillsbury and Folgers as well as several minor, but still very popular brands of jellies, coffees, and baking products (Smuckers, 2013). At each stage of its growth, the leadership at Smuckers has analyzed its needs and evaluated where it wanted to go (Gunther, 2010). Innovation requires knowing when and how to change the business model and being able to communicate that change across the company (Davila, Epstein & Shelton, 2013). Smuckers succeeded in doing this by using their established culture of family values to sell the idea to their employees. Smuckers takes great care in who they hire to make sure their attitudes as well as their experience fit in with the company culture (Gunther, 2013). The new product acquisitions were designed to make sure the shareholders of both companies benefitted from the deal (Gunther, 2013) and they refer to their purchases as their “family of brands” (Smuckers, 2013). Furthermore, in keeping with Smuckers’ strict family values, they refrain from purchasing advertising for any of their brands during shows with violent or sexual content despite where ads for these brands may have aired in the past ((Gunther, 2013).
Balancing Creativity with Innovation Davila, Epstein and Shelton (2013) state that innovative companies require “a culture that is open to questioning assumptions and to debating alternatives to the current approach to business” (p. 23). While adhering strictly to these strong family morals may seem to contradict this statement, Smuckers has seen exponential growth despite their refusal to waiver on their insistence to “play nice.” Instead, they focus their creative efforts on new strategies for marketing their brands (Gunther, 2013). In fact, their CEO Richard Smucker has predicted 2013 to be their most innovative year ever (Vanderborg, 2013). With the brands Smuckers has now acquired, they can create entire meal-based promotions centrally featured at major supermarkets like Wal-Mart (Gunther, 2013). Imagine a display with Smuckers jelly, Jif peanut butter, Martha White biscuit mix and Folgers coffee – all from Smuckers family of products. By researching these companies and deciding which brands fit best with the culture and direction of their company strategy, Smuckers was able to make effective partnerships both internally and externally, especially by ensuring the acquisition was fair and amicable. This helped create an external network that has assisted in driving innovation internally (Davila, Epstein & Shelton, 2013).
Smuckers has also been careful to create the right environment for innovation within their company. They have recognized that it is important to reward and measure innovation in order to continually encourage the development of new ideas (Davila, Epstein & Shelton, 2013). The company provides resources for employee development and recognition, corporate and global sustainability and community advocacy (Smuckers, 2013). Recently, the company proved their dedication to future innovation in their field by donating one million dollars to Ohio State University to be used toward funding food innovation research and scholarships (Ohio State University, 2013).
Conclusion
The J.M. Smuckers Company has proven that a family-owned business can still thrive and grow as a multi-million dollar, internationally-recognized brand. By embracing the rules of innovation and aligning their business strategies with their innovation process, they have successfully grown and expanded the reach of their company while still maintaining their core values. They have created successful external partnerships and recognized internal successes that encouraged creativity. They are conscious of both their success measurements as well as competitors and companies who align with their product. Their willingness to redesign their business strategy to create an avenue for further innovation is impressive as it makes it easier for them to continually to develop new marketing techniques, foster creativity and create new partnerships, all of which support the key fundamentals of an innovative company.

References
Davila, T., Epstein, M, & Shelton, R. (2013). Making innovation work. How to manage it, measure it and profit from it. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Gunther, M. (2013). The making of a future 500 company. Fortune, 162(3), 94-98.
Ohio State University (2013). J.M. Smucker Co. commits $1M to Ohio State for food innovation research, scholarhips. Retrieved from: http://fic.osu.edu/news/news-archive/jm-smucker-co-commits-1m-to-ohio-state.html
Smuckers (2013). Our Company. Retrieved from: http://www.smuckers.com/family_company/brands/media_center.aspx
Vanderborg, C. (2013). Smucker projects ‘robust period of innovation’ for 2013, manufacturer to roll out 90 new products, including blueberry coffee. Retrieved from: http://www.ibtimes.com/smucker-projects-robust-period-innovation-2013-manufacturer-roll-out-90-new-products-including.…...

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