I drink a lot of protein shakes and beverages.
Between my job in Nestlé’s finance department, interning with our legal team, a dedicated fitness schedule, and managing my schoolwork pursuing a Cleveland State JD/MBA, let’s just say I don’t have a lot time to cook.
For years, protein beverages have given me the fuel — and nutrients — I need for my workout routine and for my life. But while they’re convenient, I’ve always found that these drinks lack one important thing: taste. Time after time, I’d find protein shakes to be chalky or flavorless. They’d leave a gritty feeling in my mouth. Late last year, backed by my Nestlé team, I set out to change that with a new protein shake option. Soon my big idea, Jacked Rabbit, a new tasty, nutrient-packed protein drink from Nesquik, hits grocery store shelves.
I wasn’t a nutritionist, a marketer, or part of Nestlé’s beverage team. The innovative process that let me — a financial analyst and legal intern — to develop a new product and bring it to market was more about being a consumer. My journey was filled with speed, passion, and insight and support from colleagues in every corner of the company. It started with me having a protein drink at my desk.
Bringing Employee Insights to Life
When I first heard of a new Nestlé initiative to crowdsource innovative project ideas from employees across the company, I was a little skeptical. A lot of companies talk about employee-led innovation but don’t actually act on it. But our CEO Steve Presley had huge passion for the contest — employees would vote on the ideas submitted, and the top submissions would pitch their ideas to the company’s leaders — and that convinced me this was the real deal. My manager Linda and two Supply Chain Finance group managers, Tim and Jimmy, had also heard me talk before about what was needed in a new kind of protein drink, and they encouraged me to jump in. I decided to give it a shot.
I knew from personal experience that the market needed a delicious, nutrient-dense protein drink, combining flavor and functionality. I’d been drinking nutrition drinks that I didn’t really enjoy for years. With the encouragement of my manager and coworkers, I submitted the idea for Jacked Rabbit on a Friday afternoon last fall.
My colleagues across the company began voting for Jacked Rabbit and other ideas that had been submitted, and next thing I knew I was on a plane from my home office in Ohio to Nestlé’s headquarters outside Washington DC to pitch my idea to senior leadership.
After a “Shark Tank”-style pitch day, Nestlé’s top executives told me they wanted me to run with Jacked Rabbit — and gave me the funding and support to do so. I was completely wowed. Steve meant it when he said he was looking for innovative, disruptive ideas and didn’t care where they came from. I was living it, as were a few others whose ideas had gotten a thumbs-up.
This mentality is Nestlé’s norm. My colleagues and I take each other’s ideas seriously and support one another’s growth. And our leadership cares what employees at all levels of the company think. We are urged to be courageous in how we execute our day-to-day jobs, and this experience showed me that Nestlé means it — everyone here can make an impact. After all my energy around submitting and pitching the idea, then the real work began.
Working Together to Grow
After hearing that my pitch would move forward, I quickly met the team I’d be working with to bring it to life. We were a diverse group — food scientists, marketers, packaging experts, and more — dedicated to bringing Jacked Rabbit to market, as soon as possible. People stepped outside their day-to-day roles to bring unique expertise to every aspect of developing and launching Jacked Rabbit. I had windows into some of our work that I’d never seen before, working with the best talent in food to make my idea real.
We knew there wasn’t a product out there like ours, and we wanted to be the first. To do that, we had to work quickly and collaboratively. We focused on identifying solutions that drove the project forward, instead of dwelling on the inevitable challenges that arrived along the way.
When in doubt, we went back to our guiding mission: flavor is king. Our goal was to have people try Jacked Rabbit and think, “Wow. That is the best-tasting protein shake I’ve ever had.” I’ve tasted Jacked Rabbit, and I can tell you we accomplished that. I could never go back.
My journey — from that day in September when I submitted an idea to now getting ready to see Jacked Rabbit on store shelves — shows that at Nestlé the only limitation on your growth is you. When I asked my manager if I could shadow our legal team to learn more about opportunities in law, she hustled to make that happen. When I had a pipe dream to launch a new protein shake, Nestlé’s leadership and my colleagues supported me every step of the way.
I know they’ll all be standing with me as this idea comes to life, making it bigger and better than it ever could have been on my own.
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