Big fish, bigger ambition

King Salmon turns ideas into action, thanks to Accolade.
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King Salmon turns ideas into action, thanks to Accolade

We usually associate innovation with the small and nimble: the little fish in a big pond. But what if you’re the big fish?

For King Salmon, the rearing, processing and marketing of salmon is a big job. The company employs 400 people and has turnover close to $100 million. You’d be forgiven for thinking that innovation is a luxury, but you’d be wrong.

Under the inspired leadership of its senior management, King Salmon has been steadily growing its new product development programme, adding $5 million in new revenue in the past two years.

“Our goal is to avoid the commodity trap that so many primary producers fall into. We decided to make our products noticeably different from our competitors,” says Don Everitt, general manager of sales and marketing

To manage innovation at this scale, King Salmon relies on Accolade, an innovation management system developed by international consulting firm Sopheon. The system is a formal software-based program for implementing the Stage- Gate process, which provides managers with a series of hurdles (or gates) through which ideas must pass before making it to the next stage. The five stages range from idea through to launch and at each gate managers are forced to either kill, hold, review or advance the ideas. Read more about Stage- Gate on page 16.

Party time

King Salmon has used Accolade since mid-2007, with outstanding success, adding three new major product ranges and quadrupling its new product development. A good example of Accolade at work is the newly launched Party Platter, a combination of different types of cold-smoked and hot-smoked salmon on one ready-to-eat plate.

The idea came from someone in the sales team and it sat in the Accolade ‘idea bank’ for two years until it was rediscovered in one of the regular Accolademanaged innovation meetings.

Angela Liew is a University of Auckland academic studying the use of Accolade by King Salmon. “The idea was not overly radical—to mix different products on one plate,” she says. “But it was almost killed because of the perceived technical problems that may be encountered in packaging the hot-smoked and cold-smoked products together.”

While differing opinions existed over the viability of the idea, a technical solution was eventually reached. Coupled with the disciplines of the Stage-Gate process, the idea was turned in a detailed, viable business case that in turn led to a launch.

“In other companies perhaps the idea would have died through lack of agreement. But Accolade forces executives to make decisions: solve it and proceed, or kill it and move on,” says Liew.

Big spend

Probably Accolade’s most powerful result so far is the development of pre-portioned fillets, including the newly introduced Regal Fresh Cuts range.

The sales team realised that if the weight and consistency of salmon portions could be guaranteed, more chefs would buy the product, confident that customers were getting the promised sizes on their plates.

But to guarantee the weight, automation was required—namely a $350,000 investment in processing and packaging machinery. It would mean the biggest new product development-related capital expenditure on machinery in King Salmon’s history.

“Accolade forces us to present a business case to senior management in a wellresearched, clear and consistent manner, so that when it came to such a large capital expenditure, we could demonstrate the value in real business terms,” says Richard Smith, technical manager.


Accolade has increased King Salmon’s business discipline and financial success, and Smith says the success of past Accolade product launches against their original forecasts is helping build confidence in the next raft of new product ideas.

But it’s also had unexpected benefits, including boosts to morale and staff involvement. “On one site visit, I found the factory staff were very excited about a competition to name a new product,” says Liew. “Accolade provides a framework for engaging staff. It allows them to contribute and make suggestions that will be depersonalised and taken seriously, irrespective of their status.”

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King Salmon’s use of the Accolade innovation system has created three new product lines and added $5 million in new revenue in just two years

Simply smart

Jon Perry, the New Zealand manager for Sopheon, says the genius of the system is its simplicity. “Innovation sounds easy, but taking an idea to market with confidence and certainty is complex, there’s no doubting that. Accolade presents the process in simple steps that all managers can deal with.

“Indeed, the system works best when it is fed by the creative, free spirits in marketing and sales or by the techies in the factory, and administered by a diligent administrator in the head office.”

Innovation as a business process? Now that’s something even accountants can understand.


To find out more about Sopheon and the Accolade software visit:

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