Case Study


Kerry Foods launched a Dragon’s Den-style employee challenge for new product ideas, with some impressive – and surprising – results.

2nd February 2019

The real success was how accessible – and fun – it was for everyone, regardless of role or seniority, or perceived aptitude for this kind of challenge.


When Kerry Foods appeared to be losing its agile, entrepreneurial spirit, an out-of-the-ordinary campaign was needed to re-engage employees.

The aim was to remind them how the company got to where it is today – part of a global multinational – from humble beginnings as a small dairy farm, and secure their commitment to igniting a new company spirit to drive innovation and growth.

The company launched a new purpose, vision and values, which had at its heart the Kerry Foods Story – an engaging six-chapter visual that captured the company’s early pioneering spirit and brought the past, present and future to life. The narrative incorporated new values: ownership, courageous, open minded, on it, better together and forward looking.

It was essential the new campaign sparked the interest of all 6,500 employees, so the comms team cooked up a contest with a difference.

Colleagues were asked to come up with an innovative new product idea, with the pledge that the winner would be taken to market. The Trailblazers challenge bore the strapline ‘Define the future of food’ – inviting employees to be a part of what the future of Kerry Foods looked like.  

Samantha Wothers, head of employee engagement, explains: “Trailblazers challenged our people to come up with ideas for new snacks, drinks, foods and technologies to help us continue to delight the tastes of tomorrow. We wanted to create a bit of a bang. Think The X Factor, crossed with Dragon’s Den, meets The Great British Bake Off.”

Leader-led communication

Trailblazers was launched company-wide after an extensive planning and design process that saw the creation of a bespoke suite of marketing communications for each site, including a guide that detailed everything site managers might need to make Trailblazers a success. With many factory-based workers harder to communicate with digitally, onsite leader-led communications was vital.

All employees were given a briefing and shown a video to explain the initiative, and given time off from their day jobs to consider ideas.

Each site created Trailblazing corners in canteens and offices, emblazoned with posters and bunting, where people could pick up an entry form and brainstorm with colleagues.

Samantha continues: “It was inspiring to see each site run with the idea, coming up with their own ways to get inspired, holding ideas clinics and brainstorming together. Comms champions in each site helped up the enthusiasm.”

Number of views of the teaser and launch videos.

An incredible 860 ideas from individuals and small groups were shared from 20 different business locations – meaning one in six employees put forward an idea.

Samantha says: “Flor Healy, then CEO, was blown away by the enthusiasm of our people and wrote to everyone who entered thanking them for taking part. Each entrant also received a courageous values recognition card from their site leadership team. We didn’t know if we would get 10 or 100 entries, so 860 was amazing.”


Innovation development

From this cache of submitted ideas, 46 were shortlisted and those individuals were given time and on-site support to develop their idea and create a pitch video for the Trailblazing Review Day, where 14 leaders from various functions – the Dragons ­– reviewed all the proposals, and whittled the entries down.

For the chosen 10 lucky finalists, who were a diverse group, from factory floor and warehouse workers to the finance team, this was where the hard work began. They embarked on Trailblazers bootcamp, a four-week programme – alongside their day jobs – where they received presentation training and advice to turn their initial idea into a fully-fledged business case. For all 10 individuals, this was life-changing personal development time that they could then take forward into the rest of their careers.

But it all had to come to down to a winner – which on the day was a surprise double success, as the Dragons picked two ideas to go forward for development. The winners will continue their day jobs but become part of a development team to follow and be involved in their products’ progress.

The success of Trailblazers was less about two individuals and more about how an entire company got behind a challenge, working together, supporting each other and seeing their contribution recognised.

Samantha concludes: “The real success of Trailblazers was how accessible – and fun – it was for everyone, regardless of role or seniority, or perceived aptitude for this kind of challenge.

“One of our finalists, Michael, had never even been to head office, let alone stood in front of senior managers and delivered a pitch, so to see the transformation in him after training was incredible, the actual embodiment of our Courageous value. Seeing our employees living our values through this challenge was inspiring.”

The real success was how accessible – and fun – it was for everyone, regardless of role or seniority, or perceived aptitude for this kind of challenge.


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