Design Thinking at Great Lakes: The Search for Growth

5 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2017

See all articles by Marian Chapman Moore

Marian Chapman Moore

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

This document is one of three available case-based simulations used as the basis for a multisession course on design thinking. The course emphasizes deep user understanding, iteration, and a focus on the possibilities as a way to enhance value creation for stakeholders. Please refer to the course teaching guide to view the additional essential pedagogical tools available to the course instructor—including several hours of video content and a set of posters that summarize ethnographic interview findings for each simulation scenario.In this case, the CEO of Great Lakes (GL), a Fortune 200 company and one of the world's largest dairy cooperatives, reflects on the challenges and opportunities the company faces as it considers how to tap into a bigger slice of the lucrative market for snack foods for Millennials, an area GL's research had identified as a promising first target. Students play the role of members of a handpicked innovation team chartered to explore and develop profitable revenue growth opportunities.

Excerpt

UVA-S-0248

Rev. Apr. 17, 2017

Design Thinking at Great Lakes: The Search for Growth

Chris Pollen, the CEO of Great Lakes (GL), a Fortune 200 company and one of the world's largest dairy cooperatives, prepared to convene the first meeting of the team he had handpicked to lead innovation efforts directed at finding profitable revenue growth at GL. In preparation, he reflected on the challenges and the opportunities the company faced as it considered how to tap into a bigger slice of the lucrative market for snack foods, the area GL's research had identified as a promising first target.

Founded in 1921, GL was the second-largest member-owned cooperative in the United States. It owned the nation's number-one brand of butter and deli cheeses (utilizing more than 12billion gallons of milk annually) and was a leader in animal nutrition as well as crop protection and seed distribution. GL had built an extensive set of farm-to-market capabilities, including a private fleet of more than 1,700 refrigerated trucks, and had invested heavily in research and development. GL had a tradition of adding value through innovation in both products and packaging. For example, a line of lower-fat deli cheese was introduced to respond to health concerns, as butter was mixed with vegetable oil. In response to consumers' calls for convenience, pre-sliced cheese was added to the line, and butter was sold in smaller sticks. In addition, GL licensed its name to Martin Foods for the distribution of milk, sour cream, yogurt, and other dairy products.

Times were good: over the past seven years, sales had doubled and profits had quadrupled. Dairy accounted for as much as 30% of the company's revenue. Per capita butter consumption in the United States had reached its highest point in 40 years. Driving this resurgence were two sweeping trends: shoppers' intensified search for natural ingredients and a spike in interest in gourmet cooking that led more home cooks to experiment with flavors, supporting the success of such new products as GL's Sauté Plus Seasonings. Adding to the positive outlook was the popularity of premium-priced butters, such as Irish brand Kerrygold, that were sweeping across both Europe and the United States.

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Keywords: snacks, marketing, Millennials, generation, youth, preference

Suggested Citation

Moore, Marian Chapman, Design Thinking at Great Lakes: The Search for Growth. Darden Case No. UVA-S-0248. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2975245

Marian Chapman Moore (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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