M&S FOOD TO SUPERCHARGE DISRUPTIVE INNOVATION WITH THE LAUNCH OF DEDICATED NEW TEAM
M&S Food is launching the Innovation Hub, a new specialist team that will focus on disruptive innovation to create industry-leading products and address some of the biggest sector-wide challenges.
The Innovation Hub, launching in January, supports M&S Food’s strategy to protect the magic whilst modernising the rest—building on the brand’s market leading innovation and long history of first to market products, such as developing refrigeration in its supply chain to offer retail’s first fresh chicken in the 1960s.
By galvanising emerging trends, consumer insight and the latest technology, the team will also help M&S Food to spearhead sustainability solutions, including soya-alternative proteins for plant-based foods and the latest in material science to reduce plastic packaging.
Stuart Machin, M&S Food’s Managing Director, commented:
“Creating a dedicated team with the sole purpose of driving disruptive innovation will support us in being more relevant to our customers. But it’s not just about relevancy today; the Innovation Hub will enable us to track emerging trends and insights, so we’re one step ahead in responding to our customers’ needs in the future. The team will play a key role in helping us to build an even bigger and better food range and show customers that we’re taking action to address the sustainability issues they care about most—so that our actions today protect the planet for tomorrow.”
The nine-strong team spanning packaging, nutrition, product innovation and business development will be made up of existing M&S experts as well as being bolstered by the recruitment of new talent to drive its Food transformation.
Working with partners
A key part of the Innovation Hub will include partnering with technology-led businesses such as alternative protein supplier 3F Bio. This partnership will help M&S Food to build on its 18.5% market share* of plant protein ranges and expand its delicious Plant Kitchen range with 3F Bio’s unique mycoprotein ABUNDA®—a game-changing protein made from a natural fungus and produced using a zero-waste process.
Another priority area for the Innovation Hub will be packaging, helping to accelerate M&S Food’s plan to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic after its removal of over 2,000 tonnes and elimination of black plastic. The Innovation Hub will explore emerging innovations to find alternatives to plastic that maintain product protection and quality.
Headed up by former Head of Food Technology for convenience Dom Darby, the Innovation Hub will report directly into April Preston, M&S Food’s Director of Product Development and will work in collaboration with the technology and insight functions.
Ahead of the Innovation Hub’s full-scale launch in January, M&S Food has started recruitment for the three new roles including Business Development Manager, Packaging Innovation Manager and Product Innovation Manager.
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Notes to Editors:
*Source: Kantar Market Share w/e 12th July
M&S Food’s innovation timeline:
- M&S launched its Food department in 1931 across all stores, selling canned goods, fruit and vegetables.
- Our shopping habits were changed forever in 1948 when M&S Food trialled self-service food shopping for the first time to a country in post-war rationing.
- The same year M&S became the first retailer to set up a Food Technology Department—headed up by Nathan Goldenberg—to improve product standards.
- M&S was one of the first retailers to introduce avocados to British shoppers in 1959. After initially being labelled as “avocado pears”, M&S dropped the word “pears” and introduced preparation guides to help confused customers.
- M&S became the first retailer to sell fresh chicken by developing the ‘cold-chain’ process with its suppliers. Chickens were chilled straight from the production line, carried in refrigerated trucks, kept in refrigerated storage, and sold from newly installed refrigerated counters.
- In 1972 M&S’s Food Technology Department introduced ‘sell-by’ dates to wrappers, an innovation adopted by other retailers and which would later become a legal requirement.
- M&S was the first retailer to introduce Chicken Kievs to shoppers in the UK in 1979.
- In 1980, M&S started making fresh sandwiches in-store, which it sold in five shops. Prawn and Mayonnaise was the biggest seller in 1981 and by 1987, sandwiches were being sold in all M&S stores.
- M&S launched the first vegetarian main meals in 1985 with lasagne and moussaka among the early favourites. Sushi made an appearance for the first time in M&S stores in 1988.
- In 1994, M&S was the first major retailer to include full ingredients and nutritional information on all its sandwich labels.
- M&S became the first retailer to source 100% free range eggs across all of its whole eggs and products including eggs as an ingredient.
- M&S Cafés became the first major UK coffee chain to sell only Fairtrade coffee and tea.
- M&S became the first major retailer to remove hydrogenated fats from all of its food.
- M&S launched the world’s first plastic milk bottle using recycled material.
- M&S became the first major UK retailer to stop selling imported white veal and calves liver because of animal welfare concerns.
- Seven years ahead of regulation, M&S was the first retailer to introduce a 5p charge for its food carrier bags. Since then, M&S has dramatically reduced carrier bags usage by 90% (500m fewer bags each year saved from landfill).
- M&S was the first British retailer to receive RSPCA Freedom Food approval (now RSPCA Assured) for its salmon range for its leading welfare standards.
- M&S became the first UK retailer to be carbon neutral, which it has maintained ever since. This month, M&S announced a new goal of becoming net zero in its own operations by 2035.
- M&S Food introduced a special yeast containing Vitamin D for its bread including sandwiches which improves bone health. Two slices of bread include 15% of the RDA for Vitamin D.
- All M&S Select Farmers producing milk became RSPCA Assured—the highest animal welfare standard for dairy. M&S continues to be the only retailer to sell 100% RSPCA Assured milk.
- M&S was the first national retailer in the UK to be able to trace every piece of beef it sells, whether it’s in a prepared meal, a sandwich or a prime cut. M&S is also the first retailer to publish details of its food suppliers on an interactive map.
- As part of its Made Without range, M&S became the first UK retailer to sell own-brand gluten-free pastries, including croissants, chocolate twists and apricot pastries, all made with creamy French butter.
- M&S became the first major UK food retailer to develop a range of own-brand Halal prepared meals. In 2019, M&S also launched its range of meat and dairy-free plant-based dishes, Plant Kitchen.
- M&S became one of the first retailers to remove glitter from its entire range of festive cards and wrap.
- M&S Food completely eliminated soya from the production of all its milk as part of its commitment to eliminate deforestation.