A Fresh Veg Blog

Mann…We’re Curious! Behind the Scenes with Alex McCloskey, Director of New Product Development

April 2019

Alex McCloskey is the director of new product development at Mann’s

COVER PHOTOS: Top Left  (L-R) Ryan Leavitt, research technician | Cathy Joseph, research technologist – Right Photo (L-R) Rachael Hackbarth, director of research and development |  Alex McCloskey, director of new product development | Susanne Klose, director of research and development

Have you ever wondered how new produce items appear on the shelves in your grocery store? We think you might be fascinated by what it takes to get something as seemingly simple as a broccoli floret or veggie slaw to your shopping cart. We went behind the scenes with Alex McCloskey, our director of new product development, and asked him a few questions. Here’s what we learned.

Our “Bright Ideas Box” is modeled after our award-winning Nourish Bowls®. Our team members are encouraged to submit their product ideas for consideration.

What do you do?

I have the coolest job in the company. I get to take our crazy ideas and turn them into real products that people can buy off the shelf. I am lucky enough to work with people from all parts of the organization and love that my job is so cross-functional. There are so many factors that go into developing a delicious, healthy product that our consumers love and a big part of what I do is make sure that we’re staying on course and creating things that our consumers will buy over and over again. It is always challenging but always fun.

Ryan Leavitt, research technician. works in the R&D lab where he conducts routine lab analysis for new product development and process improvement.

How do new products come to life at Mann’s?

It’s quite a process! There is an endless stream of new product ideas that come from everywhere. We are constantly looking at food industry trends and data, social media trends, industry publications and are constantly listening to consumer feedback. We’re also trialing a “Bright Ideas Box” so that our own employees can share their new product ideas and be a part of that process with us.

The important part is making sure the ideas that we work on are creating products that not only fill a need in the market but that we can make those products consistently and affordably. Those ideas are vetted thoroughly by all of our team members (R&D, operations, finance, sales, marketing) to make sure that we can actually make this product and get it onto shelves looking and tasting great every time. We communicate like crazy, come up with creative approaches to problems and aren’t afraid to fail in the process.

We have the best team in the business and they are all essential to the creation of any of our new products.

Cathy Joseph, research technologist, performs shelf life evaluations of products.

Can you tell us anything about the science?

It’s one of the most interesting parts of my job and I learn more about it every day. All vegetables breathe differently – either by themselves or when mixed together or put in different packaging. We use tiny laser perforations in our bags to make sure that they are getting the right amount of oxygen so that they look fresh and taste amazing for their entire shelf life. Our R&D team sifts through mountains of data to create and constantly adjust settings. As seasons and growing regions change, so does the respiration of all of our products. The process is never-ending and always changing.

How long does it take for a product idea to come to reality?

Depending on the product or idea, it can be as quick as a couple months or take up to several years. Sometimes the product that seemed like the easiest to make becomes the hardest and others come together seamlessly. I can’t say it enough: the patience, persistence and creativity of our team is absolutely critical in making all of this happen.

Testing of gas concentrations in the package is essential to creating new products.

How many ideas do you have? And how many turn into products?

There are literally thousands of ideas. We consider and research them all. Most end up not working for one reason or another but at the end of the day, we’re making at least 20 new products each year.

What’s your background?

I was born and raised in Monterey, CA. I worked in hospitality for years which is where I fell in love with food. I got my B.S. in Business at CSU Monterey Bay and then moved to Australia to do my MBA. I stayed there for three and a half years working for a health food company launching new products for cereals, snacks and UHT milks. My wife and I moved back home in 2016 and I have been at Mann’s ever since.

What are your favorite products? No doubt: the Denver Scramble Nourish Bowl Breakfast and Kohlrabi Linguine.

Thank you, Alex!

Readers, we hope you learned something new. Feel free to ask Alex a question OR let him know about products you would love to see in the produce department in the comments below – he’d love to hear from you.

6 Comments

  • Cynthia Unowsky says:

    No stores in my area seem to be carrying Mann products anymore! I fell in love with your sugar snaps and don’t see them these days 🙁
    Cynthia

    • Loree Dowse says:

      Hi Cynthia,

      We are sorry to hear this. Have you tried our Store Finder on our website? You can enter your zip code and it will give you a list of Mann’s product in your area. You could also ask to speak to the produce manager at your local store and request that our products be sold there. We hope you’re able to get your hands on our products again. https://www.veggiesmadeeasy.com/find-a-store/

  • Emily says:

    Would love to see colrabi back on the shelf. I found it to be the best “ pasta “ replacement going. I have to admit I love colrabi but the texture for pasta replacement is the best.

    • Loree Dowse says:

      Hi Emily,
      I am so happy to hear you enjoy our product. We are working hard to increase distribution of our Kohlrabi “Linguine,” so hopefully you can find it soon again in a store near you. You can use our store finder to see if maybe another store in your area carries it. We hope you’re able to find it again. It’s such a great product for sure. https://www.veggiesmadeeasy.com/find-a-store/

  • Betty Behr says:

    I purchased a Nourish bowl that you put in the microwave and heated and then put on your included maple dressing. I LOVED IT!!!!!! But as the other customer said I cannot find it again. I have asked the produce managers and they say it depends on the main warehouse to get it to them and it is not on the order sheet. I am talking Giant Eagle and Kuhns .

    • Loree Dowse says:

      Hi Betty,
      I am happy to hear that you enjoy our Nourish Bowls®. We are sorry to hear that you’re having trouble finding our products. Have you tried using our store finder on our website? We still supply to Giant Eagle, so hopefully they get some stock soon. We hope you’re able to find some soon. https://www.veggiesmadeeasy.com/find-a-store/

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