Got Milk? How Canada’s Largest Dairy Company Adds Value through Innovation

The trailblazer who will revolutionize how you do innovation—and might just save your business in the process

We all know the value of innovation in procurement, especially given the complexity of today’s global economy. But identifying practical steps for implementing these changes can be daunting. Nicolas Marie, the Vice-President of Strategic Sourcing and Development at Agropur (a 6-billion dollar dairy cooperative), will speak about how he launched an innovation incubator with large-scale impact. Nicolas’s session at ProcureCon Canada 2017 discusses how he used open innovation to grow, and add value to, his organization—he will challenge us to do the same.

“We want to invent the dairy product of the future,” Nicolas said. Nicolas Marie thinks big; the market, he believes, demands greater change management than ever before.

Are you prepared to keep up?

The times are a-changin’

With fluctuations in the Canadian dollar and falling oil prices, we have reached a turning point in our national economy. Likely you are looking to adapt to this changing tide, specifically as it relates to currency management, imports and exports, sourcing, and more. What’s becoming clear is this: Innovation is an absolute necessity for survival. Evolving into a nimble and strategically-oriented organization is a choice that could (and this isn’t much of a stretch) make or break you.

Nicolas Marie’s innovation success story

When Nicolas began his career nearly 20 years ago, Strategic Sourcing was a concept within procurement, but had yet to gain functional traction. He was passionate about the food industry and worked at multinational companies like Danone and Kraft Foods. But it wasn’t until 2014, when he joined Agropur, that Nicolas reached a breakthrough.

Nicolas merged Sourcing and R&D into one unique department: Strategic Sourcing & Development. This opened the door to a large realm of innovative possibilities. Nicolas’s model added value to the business through cost reduction and product innovation, paving the way for the 2016 launch of the Innovation Incubator.

 “We (Agropur) had a traditional way of innovating that was done internally,” Nicolas told Food Business News. “It was innovation we tried to keep secret until the launch. We wanted to protect the confidentiality of the innovation.”

Nicolas broke through this paradigm of internal innovation and adopted a new model: the creation of dairy products on the open market. Open innovation, Nicolas argues, is the future of the industry.

“With the internet, the speed of innovation has been much faster. Where once it may have taken two years to get a product to market, now it takes 6 to 12 months. The speed to market has become faster and we needed to find new ways to innovate.”

The Inno Challenge accepted submissions on new technologies or ingredients, as well as finished products. Under Nicolas’s vision, Agropur took a stance of openness toward externally-generated innovation.

“We don’t want to set up barriers for the ideation process. We want to be surprised, and we are purposely wide in our request. We want to invent the dairy product of the future. We don’t want to even think about dairy products; it could be something for other categories.”

You can do it too

Nicolas Marie’s approach to innovation, unique upon its inception, is quickly evolving into the gold standard of procurement. And the best part? He is ready and anxious to share his insights with us. His talk at ProcureCon 2017 promises to be both inspirational and transformational for our businesses and careers. If we can learn one thing from Nicolas’s success, it is that innovation—particularly in strategic sourcing—is not to be taken lightly. Innovation is the engine behind organizational growth—now, and far into the future.

ProcureCon Canada 2017 takes place from April 10-12 in Toronto. This one-of-a-kind conference is peer-led, allowing for dynamic and forward-thinking conversations that will improve all aspects of your work, from cultivating strong supplier relationships to adapting sourcing to 21st century challenges.

 By Katie Koppel, Content Writer