Will Howard – Ella’s Kitchen
Will Howard is the Deputy MD of Ella’s Kitchen. He spends his time working with commercial partners across the world, developing new ways to grow the business and help improve children’s lives through developing healthy relationships with food. A major part of his role is looking for opportunities to grow the existing range, as well as looking at which new products, categories and countries could help on the next part of Ella’s journey. Will’s role covers UK Sales, International Sales and Marketing, ownership of the NPD process, Category and Insight, Commercial Strategy and Demand planning.
Ella’s Kitchen came into existence when Paul Lindley – who previously worked at Nickelodeon – found it a challenge to find food that his daughter Ella would eat. Paul made a promise to Ella when he set up the company, and this promise is still on their packs today:
“My dad made a promise to me and my brother that he would only use stuff in our products that is natural, is pure and helps make us healthy. I told him that everything also has to taste great, and he agreed”.
Key learnings around innovation
Before working at Ella’s, Will previously worked at Pepsico, L’Oréal and Red Bull. According to Will, innovation and where innovation came from was different at each company:
“At Red Bull it was hard to create product innovation as the 250ml can was very much at the heart of our global proposition, which meant we were almost the same in any country you purchased us from, but this meant we occasionally missed a country specific opportunity.
When I was at innocent we were in a phase of high growth, launching juices in a carafe to compete with Tropicana, as well as bringing innovation into the kids’ juice and adult smoothies’ category…which also had its own challenges.”
Will: “At Ella’s it works a little differently, as each innovation will always link to our mission, which is to improve children’s lives through developing healthy relationships with food. This means that there are several big pieces of innovation that we have chosen not to launch as they aren’t best for babies or aligned to our mission.”
Main source for innovation
Will explains that the source for innovation can come and should come from anywhere. Will: “It might be from a conversation you have with a mum or dad, an idea from one of the team in the barns or a customer.”
“When it comes to validating their concepts, Will explains that Ella’s Kitchen takes insight from their online community which means we can test ideas and concepts relatively quickly with Mums and Dads who are advocates and with those who aren’t.”
Sometimes it doesn’t work
“Unfortunately, not all innovations succeed, and that’s totally fine”, Will continues. “Over my career I have seen a lot of time and money spent on innovation that doesn’t add any value to the consumer or the person selling the product…which means that the product inevitably doesn’t have a great start to its life.”
“One of the big learnings is that sometimes innovation doesn’t work despite best intentions, so the best thing to do is let it fail quickly, evaluate it and move on. Quite a few times I’ve been in a place where we’ve persevered with innovation and it’s taken our focus from the next thing. There is also the other side of the story, which is sometimes you might just need to tweak a few things to get it right….”