10 Most Innovative Food Companies

From making products healthier to incorporating sustainability to implementing advertising and marketing initiatives, more and more food companies are finding ways to get creative with their products. Fast Company recently released its 2011 “50 Most Innovative Companies” issue that highlighted the 10 most innovative food companies. These companies were recognized for thinking outside the conventional box, taking risks and reprogramming consumer perceptions.

The following are the Top 10 Most Innovative Food Companies:

1)  PepsiCo—for recently opening a clinical research center focused on making its products healthier by reducing fat, sugar and sodium by as much as 25 percent over the next 10 years, without compromising taste.

2)  Trader Joes—for its commitment to stocking 4,000 specialty products, compared to the large inventories of typical grocery stores. The smaller inventory allows them to sell twice as much as Whole Foods.

3)  Madécasse—for building a bean-to-bar chocolate company in West Africa (while 70 percent of cocoa comes from West Africa, only one percent of the world’s chocolate is made there) to keep more economic benefit within the island nation.

4)  Cargill—for perfecting process to grow and refine sweet leaf extracts from stevia that is eco-aware and health-friendly.

5)  Foodhub—for creating an online tool to connect local food producers to food buyers big and small. Wholesale food buyers log on to access thousands of small and regional producers, as well as info on varietals sold, minimum orders, insurance, and delivery options.

6)  Current Energy—for creating smart sensors to help fast food restaurants cut their energy use. The sensors can ping restaurant managers with text messages if a walk-in refrigerator is left ajar for too long, or coordinate pizza-oven temperatures based on real-time sales.

7)  Chipotle—for its in-house advertising that included replacing wacky promotions with on-message marketing. The company’s “Boo-rito” giveaways for Halloween were replaced this year by a campaign to promote how truly scary other fast food is, with sales of discounted meals going to support Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

8)  McDonald’s—for investing $2.4 billion in changing consumer perception about the fast food giant. McDonald’s is launching first total makeover campaign since the Carter administration, redoing at least 400 domestic outposts, refurbishing 1,600 restaurants abroad and building another 1,000.

9)  Bolthouse Farms—for its goal to double the $1 billion baby-carrot business by using snack food marketing tactics. The move propelled baby carrots from a flat industry to a hotly marketed snack food, from adrenaline-fueled ads to snazzy grab-and-go bags.

10)  Max Burger—for being the first carbon-footprint fast-food chain. Max Burger prints the carbon emissions of each sandwich on the menu.

To view the entire 2011 “50 Most Innovative Companies,” click here.