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From Risk to Reward

Alexandre Bastos, Global Director of Innovation at Givaudan

— March 24, 2017 — Business
Trend Hunter spoke with Alexandre Bastos, the Global Director of Innovation at Givaudan: a Swiss company that manufacturers active cosmetic ingredients, flavors and fragrances. He touched on the importance of displacement when it comes to creativity, rewarding risks, as well as how his industry will transform over the next 10 years.

Can you tell us a little about your role at Givaudan and what led you to it?

We are on a journey at Givaudan to drive a more collaborative and inclusive approach to innovation. My role as Global Director Innovation for the Flavors Division is to explore and bring new opportunities by connecting with start-ups and entrepreneurs that are innovating and disrupting the food and agriculture ecosystem.

How does your team generate great ideas? Do you have certain rituals to make creativity happen?

Innovation is at the heart of Givaudan’s business. It is something we are very proud of, and which we don’t take for granted in today’s fast-changing world. Connecting and collaborating internally across departments is important and seeking inspiration from the external world can open new possibilities in innovative solutions.

What are some barriers to innovation? How do you get around them?

We regularly say: "Great risk; great reward." Willingness to take risks is crucial for innovation and most well-established companies face this challenge. At Givaudan we always look for a balanced portfolio that can create new horizons for our business while sustaining our core activities.

How do you identify trends? What resources does your team use to spot trends and insights?

We take a comprehensive approach to tracking trends. Consumer understanding is the starting point for our thinking. Our global insights teams work closely with consumers to unlock insights by observing trends, conducting ethnographies and qualitative and quantitative research. This helps us identify changes in people’s attitudes and behaviors across food & beverage product categories and geographies.

Has there ever been an instance where another industry has influenced an innovation at your company?

Yes. For example, the natural food movement has influenced our industry and we are capitalizing on our leadership in the natural flavor space by expanding our offerings to our customers.

What are some examples of things you can do to create a culture of innovation?

A culture of innovation is more than simply creating something new – it is about doing things differently as well as doing them better and recognizing that the world has changed and will continue to change. Examples of what we do range from encouraging an environment of openness and curiosity, question conventions and welcome debate. All done with great passion, respecting each other and growing together as an innovative and lively organisation.

What do you think your industry will look like in 10 years?

We’ll continue to see increasing demand for health and well being and natural products. On the other hand, digitization, vertical farming and biotechnology will play a major role because nature, in its own, cannot keep up with the growing population.

What’s the most unconventional thing you have done to get creative inspiration?

The most unconventional thing for me is doing what we call "reverse thinking." Instead of thinking "how can we solve this problem?" we change gears and think "how can we create this problem?" We normally get fresh and new perspectives by doing this.

The other one I like is related to the metaphor of dwarfs: "standing on the shoulders of giants." We acknowledge and appreciate those brilliant and innovative minds out there, those giants. We then think of the future based on what they are innovating today. We are amazed by all the new perspectives it brings to us and to them – at the end it is giants standing on the shoulders of other giants.

Do you see a connection between regional trends and global trends at Givaudan?

Yes, definitely. There are trends that are related to specific markets only. However you also see many trends that start in one spot but spread globally, sometimes rather quickly.
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