Episode: 297 |
Jaime Head:
Innovation at Ocean Spray:


Jaime Head

Innovation at Ocean Spray

Show Notes

Jamie Head is the Chief Digital and Technology Officer at Ocean Spray Cranberries, which is an agricultural cooperative with over 700 member growers. The cooperative accounts for over 70% of North American cranberry production.

In this episode, Jamie discusses innovations that are underway at this leading global producer.

To learn more about Ocean Spray (and find plenty of recipes), visit:  https://www.oceanspray.com/

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Hello and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which connects you with the world’s top independent management consultants. I’m your host Will Bachman. And I’m excited to be here today with Jamie head, who is the Chief Digital and Technology Officer at Ocean Spray. cranberries. Jamie, welcome to the show. Thanks, Will pleasure to be here. So I’ve so many questions for Jamie. First, Could you just tell us like what Ocean Spray is? I think it’s it kind of has, I believe that you get an interesting structure a lot of people might not be familiar with.

Jamie Head 00:39
Yeah, sure. So we’re Ocean Spray. So we’re in the business of cranberries. We’re a court party made up of just over 700 farmers, mainly in the US, Canada, and Chile, as well where our production is made. And we we own about 65 7% of the world’s cranberry supplies. So we know all things cranberry and produce a various amount of drinks and food for our for our consumers. And the great thing about the court now is that we’re we’re investing more into be a health and wellness company beyond just to cranberry. But it’s a fantastic place to work and be.

Will Bachman 01:27
So that’s very interesting. So tell me, what does it mean to be a cooperative of farmers, as opposed to some other brands that might be you’re just sort of buying and sourcing the raw material from farmers like so? What does even that mean to be a cooperative farmers? How does that work?

Jamie Head 01:45
Yeah, I think there’s there’s many different dimensions to court models, were pretty much a marketing co operative, and we were where we are is we were pretty much vertically integrated. So all of our supply pretty much comes from from the farms. So it’s, it’s a great story to be in a company where you can see all the way down to the vines in the ground where your product comes from. So in a world where consumers thrive on transparency and understanding where their product is made, we have a fantastic heritage and story to tell there being being a cooperative now that the other side of it is obviously the capital side. So our earnings go directly back to our farmers, which is a really important thing to do. Certainly, if you look back at the macro level that our our farming economy across certainly the US. You know, they’ll see farmers are struggling as well. So it’s has a really good purpose to it that we have a collection of farmers out there and what we do every day is for them and their families. Alright, very interesting.

Will Bachman 03:00
We, I suppose I could have looked this up, but I’m just curious. My met I met imagine that most cranberries kind of come ripe and get harvested about the same time of the year. So does that mean that Ocean Spray has some sort of massive warehouses somewhere? Like how do you store all those cranberries? For people? I mean, I know I guess a big part of the season would be around Thanksgiving. But what do you do with all the cranberries for cranberry juice and so forth? That, you know, you don’t? Do you have like massive warehouses to store them?

Jamie Head 03:32
Yeah, great question. I mean, it is very much in the same time of year except for the likes of chili where it’s on a different summer schedule. But we we harvest throughout the fall through October time is the peak season. Usually on a farm, it’s between, you know, three to two to two to four weeks when they’re harvesting the crop. And most of it goes to receiving stations. So we have dotted around the US receiving stations to receive that crop. And when we look at the yield yields change every year, but most of the yield is used within our we call it a pool year. If not, then it will go into into sort of freezer and storage as well for subsequent years. Okay.

Will Bachman 04:24
And in terms of it being a co OPT is Does that mean that the company is owned by the farmers and how does the kind of corporate governance work did the farmers have Is there like a board of board of directors, the farmers elect are just a little bit about how that structure it’s a little bit unusual.

Jamie Head 04:45
Yeah, sure. Actually, it’s not as unusual as you think we’re a Delaware registered company. And we have a board very much like other private companies out there. It’s a board that’s selected by the farming community and all, all of the owners in the co op, sorry, all of the members of the court bar owners of the business, but they elect their board member, and they have representation across the different growing regions. So every region has representation at the board. And the board, essentially are fully empowered to make the decisions with the management team, on our strategies and directions. So it’s not actually dissimilar to two other boards and corporations I be part of. And, and again, we’re our cohort model is different to other core models. So other other other cops have a different structure. But we’re, we’re pretty good in that respect in terms of decision making.

Will Bachman 05:49
You mentioned that the company is working to transition to be more of a health and wellness company brought in cranberries. Could you talk about some of those initiatives that you know, the things that are publicly announced?

Jamie Head 06:00
Yeah, sure, we were on a really exciting journey here, we’re 90 years young. And we have so much potential upside ahead of us, it’s, it’s a great place to be at Ocean Spray. And our our purpose in supervision is around connecting our farm subfamily for a better life. And we are moving away, we’re not going away, we’re going to keep to our core business of beverage, but we need to innovate rapidly around the edges. And we have another strategy of twice the innovation half the time. And we were doing things in areas which are not necessarily cram refocus. So to summarize, some I can’t talk about here, but we just launched one, a total wellness, which is which is online now it’s actually a thirsty to see play as well. But But on that product offer, you can see a definite shift between how do we get into the consumers mindset and needs of wanting different health, health beverages throughout the day for different needs. And there’s, there’s a variety of offerings that we’re going to be coming out with around that space. And then certainly in the in the snacking aisle, or even space. People are eating differently throughout the day. You know, before COVID, it wasn’t necessarily a breakfast, lunch and dinner people snacks throughout the day is you know, and and demanding different ways to consume their calories in a healthy way. So looking at the portfolio from that lens, it’s been really interesting. And we’re about to launch one product. I cannot recall timings if I can say it or not just yet, but in more of the convenience area where you can pick up a snack and eat it or on the go or at your desk or at home. So various areas, kids functional flavors, snacking, smoothies, health and potentially other spaces. So we have to be very deliberate and focused in some areas. But in another way, our innovation team led by a great leader, and a result is saying, well, we’re gonna test more more often and in smaller markets to see what will stick and then scale it from there. So a lot of innovation to come through the pipeline is short space of time.

Will Bachman 08:31
Fantastic. You mentioned the COVID-19. Could you talk about what Ocean Spray has been doing to protect both your farmers as well as your customers and the rest of your supply chain during the pandemic?

Jamie Head 08:47
Yeah, no thoughts are out there to to everybody in the world who are dealing with this. We it’s certainly a very challenging time. And we are fortunate to be in a category that is in demand from our consumers, they they are wanting our product to be in the refrigerator at home and consume it. So in that respect, we’re blessed that we can put the food and beverage on the shelf with consumers at home. And we we always are people first and protecting our employees is key. We have sort of very strict rules at our manufacturing plants, certainly around social distancing, etc. We’ve also increased pay for our manufacturing plants as part of our response to in this time and as most organizations or corporate staff are working from home around the world, and will remain so for for a conservative future. So that we’re protecting our employees, keeping manufacturing open and going touchwood we’re in a relatively healthy space, and I hope that remains so. And for our customers, you know, the customers being the Walmarts, etc. in the retail world, we continue to operate within their guidelines as well. Our sales team, our Field Sales Team, adopting more working remotely as well with our key account managers on the other side. So we’re all as an industry and CPG marking in together and pretty much doing the same sort of things in the, in the same categories, which is good to see.

Will Bachman 10:36
Has that required any different or innovative processes. The on the sales side, I’ve spoken with a manufacturing firm that always used to have their customers come in person to, to validate and do the acceptance testing. And in I’ve taught it was spoke with Marvin Riley at enpro Industries, who talked about how their go to market has really changed in terms of instead of sending a sales rep out by alone on a flight. They’re now having, you know, it’s doing video conferences, but because of that they’re able to get a much broader set of team members involved manufacturing engineer, the production engineer, and you know, the designers so they get like, the full team involved on the sales calls has actually been more effective. And they plan to keep doing that. Do you see any kind of changes like that happening that have almost been forced on the company because of Coronavirus.

Jamie Head 11:38
Yeah, so fantastic example. And we are seeing you know, things going differently. And sometimes for the better. And post COVID it is going to be interesting to see how we adopt some of these these changes going forward. But I think similar to that example, look, we’re doing significant amount of innovation, which requires a lot of collaboration with retailers to accept the product. And like you see in our consumer world of unboxing and unveiling on YouTube. We’re doing that same thing in real time and shipping care packages to to the buyers and doing virtual openings of the boxes and making it more of an experience virtually, then then we would have done and yes to your point, we can then include more people around the innovation team and r&d and supply to talk about the product. So that that’s resonating and going well. And then obviously our key account teams maintain the relationships mainly by by video conferencing at the moment.

Will Bachman 12:48
Could you say a little bit more about that about how innovation how you have to work with the retailers that that’s not maybe something that I would have been so aware of? It makes sense. So for packaged goods company food beverage that’s making a new product, how do you work with a retailer along the way? So it sounds like you don’t just sort of wait till the end when you have it ready to ship? Say Hey, do you want a pallet of this? So I like how do you involve major retailers in that whole innovation process?

Jamie Head 13:17
Yeah, I think this is where the top two tops and you know, strategic account management really comes into play. We were sort of industry captains in our in our single in our shelves shelf stable juice aisle. So we have good working relationships with our customers. And I think when you go to the table say listen, what, what challenges do you see What challenges do your consumers have when they shop your store? And how can we partner up together to understand that fill that gap and supply it faster than than somebody else, for example. So having talked to tops in those conversations with other members of our C suite with key partners is is a really important play. They know customers are also demanding. So look, we don’t just want another product extension line. We’ve seen that for many, many years. What else is different? And that’s where we grab it, we’re grabbing their attention, say, Well, you’ve got a choke, you’ve got these other things coming down the pipe. That’s really interesting. Ocean Spray. Let’s talk about it. And by the way, we see this gap from our insights and could you partner up and take part of it. So it it’s starts with a really healthy conversation and a good top to top to really understand and break down where the opportunities lie for both customer and manufacturer. But once you you’ve got that down, Pat, it’s all about execution and can you actually deliver what you said you can do? And getting it out the door in a false way, which we hopefully can and will do.

Will Bachman 15:06
Great. Let’s talk about your role a little bit. So, Chief Digital and Technology Officer, may we start? How is that different from a chief information officer?

Jamie Head 15:19
Yeah, great question. And it’s always interesting, I try and stay away from using the word digital. So it’s ironic that it’s in the title. But the, you know, the original mandate when I arrived here was to modernize the core infrastructure and landscape of of it, or the tech team, as we call it here. And it became very apparent as you started that journey, but yes, we we can modernize our business and digitize some of the functions to get benefit of modern technology and processes, which we are doing and shifting more of our work to the cloud building integration across our various investments, etc. and developing a really good data and architecture layer behind it. But this shift then came say, Well, what else is there out there? And we had a very, I wouldn’t say, all traditional marketing model in that there was agency lead and agency heavy, but we then said, Okay, if marketing technology is really driving this consumer two way relationship, and we must be obsessed with the consumer more than we have been, how do you put technology within marketing, and build up that capability in house versus agency. So we did that. And we formed our digital hub, which is our sort of CSV for digital marketing, and driving a, I would say, tech lead process, lead capability, building in house across media, buying optimization, content, and commerce, with a with a small but mighty All Star team, that will help really drive transparency with agencies and also become quicker with consumers online in our social world. So we have hands on people’s capability, we now have analytics capability, etc. So that’s part of that digital role. And then when we come out of our, you know, two year modernisation of the co op, how do we then get into actual digital business models and and innovate around the edges there. So that’s to come, we’ll get the base done first, and then get into that other game? Very soon. So that’s how that the world has been defined so far for the for the world here.

Will Bachman 17:54
Could you go into a little bit more detail on the center of excellence for digital marketing, maybe take each one of those areas? And just give me a couple examples of what it means. So you talked about content, you talked about commerce, talked about AD buying? And what what does that take to bring that in house and just explain explain to me a little bit what that means in practice?

Jamie Head 18:19
Yeah, sure. So there’s a few components to it. But first of all, if you break down an organization, internally, you have quite a few internal customers, you have marketing, you have Corporate affairs, ecommerce, shopper marketing, you even have your own sort of web presence, etc, online, luxury.com and other sites. So with that you have common requests and capabilities across you know, I need content creator for this channel, this time, etc. So there’s that piece around how do you build and maintain content at your digital shelf level within commerce, but also across your other owned channels that you need to operate. And before that was relatively fragmented. And now we can reuse assets, make sure the legal language is correct and monitored and maintained to be more efficient with content there. So that’s important to do. Now with a tech lens, we’re talking about dams and pins and things like that. But from a business end, it was around centralizing that content creation work. The other side of it is the social part, and how do we become a lot quicker on the social world and, and rather than post messages out, you know, build really build a two way relationship with our consumers and take advantage of things like Thanksgiving where we want to own Thanksgiving being a cranberry business. So having the capability to not only slice and dice content on the fly But also have the right brand voice with the right person to talk to our consumers was important for us to do internally versus always using third parties. And then on the media side, it’s it’s a few things there as well. Yes. How do you get the right media plan? How do you innovate across your channels with the agency? And how do you really get more working media dollars for your account. And with that, you need sometimes you need a Will you have the heart, so to x agency people onto our team, which was certainly helps with understanding the minutiae of of how accounts work. But bringing in sort of DSPs, in house, owning the contract in house versus agency lead, opens up the area of data transparency and understanding how exactly your dollars are being allocated to campaigns and, and getting the data back directly. That’s, that’s really key to help unlock value. And then sort of the fifth roll to that is okay, you’ve got all the data. But so what having marketing analytics as a capability is something we’re building to ensure we can measure our KPIs and build up up the business that way? Hopefully, that explains it in a in a nutshell. Between the roles in the hub?

Will Bachman 21:29
Yeah, that’s great. With with the social part. How does that work? Is there sort of someone sitting at Ocean Spray? Who’s writing the tweets or, or writing the Instagram posts? And like, how do those get approved? You know, how, when people comment on it on Twitter, do you? Like it just how does that whole process work of, of having a consistent brand voice? That but that’s also responsive and getting, you know, getting replies and retweets and engaging with with people?

Jamie Head 22:03
Yeah, it’s a great question, we do use a third party to aggregate the social content. And by and large, they, they take care of the majority or responses. But any reply back to consumers usually gets vetted by the digital hub team. To make sure it’s consistent with our brand voice, training and education to the third party team is also useful for our consumer Help Desk, etc. So that’s always continuous activity. But you have to make your your little bets of Okay, where am I get? Where are the signals arriving to say, look, we’ve got a lot of noise generating on this campaign or something pops in the influencer world, which is suddenly of interest, or even look this, this other brand is doing something fun, and they want other brands to participate in? And can we be part of that conversation? And is for those events that you see the signals for when the digital hub, then go proactive and get into the mix? And then start in editing and directing the content ourselves. So you have to be truthful. And that’s where analytics comes in. But you can’t be everywhere, but where you can you’ve got to maximize it to what’s going to have most impact.

Will Bachman 23:29
And how do you? You know, it’s, it sounds like there’s so many different areas of where technology is meeting marketing? How do you stay up to speed on just all that range? Do you kind of talk to other people in similar roles or conferences? Or is it you’re talking to, you know, advisors, or how do you just sort of stay current?

Jamie Head 23:56
Yeah, great question. And I probably can’t to be honest with you. Well, it’s an ever evolving space. I think somebody coined it. It’s a Disneyland attack out there. And certainly, there’s some people at HubSpot as well who can tell you a few stories about the the marketing tech stacks out there. But how do I do it? Well, I have a great team. So I’m blessed with that and they keep me informed of the key trends and activities. So obviously, hiring talent is vitally important there and making sure they’re exposed externally, so they can keep current. Also, we’re partners with salsify here in Boston. They run a great forum, around the digital shelf across other cpgs and other players. And certainly during this COVID time, Molly shantala, a VP over there, has created a fantastic group of people in the CPG world To connect you every other month to talk about how they’re responding to COVID, for example, and what are they doing? So that’s really useful partnership, and we’re developing others. And I think that’s where you get the the main signals around what’s happening is well, what are the technology providers or solution providers doing? How do they advise you on what other consumer customers are doing, etc, that they’re really useful to connect you up and build a network. And then obviously, our agencies agency record or our digital agency in New York, they’re super plugged into it. So having your regular calls with them, helps keep you on point and on your toes. So despite bringing some of these pieces in house, you continue to work with

Will Bachman 25:55
with external agencies. Yes, yes, absolutely. Fantastic. Well, Jamie, this has been really interesting to hear about some of what’s going on inside Ocean Spray, beyond pointing people to the Ocean Spray website, any other links or Twitter handles or anything else that you’d like for us to include in the show notes so people can follow up?

Jamie Head 26:22
Why do you think what everybody’s at home at the moment is a great time as we seen for baking and home cooking, so please check out our recipes on ocean spray.com and Pinterest, Instagram, whatever channel is your choice, but there’s some great recipes out there for a very healthy fruit. So go at it and post some pictures. We’d love to hear from you.

Will Bachman 26:45
All right. Jamie, thank you so much for joining. Not at all. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

Related Episodes


Integrating AI into a 100-year-old Media Business

Salah Zalatimo


Author of Second Act, on The Secrets of Late Bloomers

Henry Oliver


Third Party Risk Management and Cyber Security

Craig Callé


Co-founder of Retraction Watch

Ivan Oransky