Consumer Products CEO Focuses on Importance of Innovation

And when you’re in a business like Jarden, CEO Jim Lillie—whose company fields products across dozens of consumer brands in the U.S. and global markets—innovation becomes even more important. Lillie’s brands include Nuk baby pacifiers, Ball jars, First Alert smoke alarms, Bicycle playing cards, Coleman lanterns, Holmes air purifiers, Marmot outdoor wear, Rawlings sporting goods, Sunbeam irons and Mr. Coffee beverage makers.

“The best time to pick up share is during a down economy. We’ll cut back on spending, but not on product innovation and development.”

Lillie told Manufacturing CEO Briefing that he sees Jarden’s business picking up across most of its brands these days and that one reason for the surge is that the company didn’t curtail its spending on product innovation, research and development during the Great Recession.

“The best time to pick up share is during a down economy,” Lillie said. “We’ll cut back on spending, but not on product innovation and development. We believe our competitors do cut back on product development during those times, and we saw that most recently. Now with the economy having evolved, we are seeing our competitors reinvesting.”

And that, he said, makes it even more important for Jarden to stay ahead with launches of new products and features that were nurtured during the downturn.

For example, he said, Jarden is expanding the array of products in its Marmot apparel business, which is “very exciting” for the brand, he said. And the company just released a product called Draftmark, a home beer-kegging system, with Anheuser-Busch.

“The rise of craft brews and the more refined palate that consumers have as it relates to beer has created a desire to have more of that at home,” Lillie explained. He said that the company test-marketed Draftmark in Houston and other cities and “consumer acceptance has been pretty big.”

Target has picked up the product across most of its stores, Lillie said. And the brewer, owned by AB InBev, “is putting a lot of advertising” behind Draftmark, with a big push planned for the fourth quarter and through the Super Bowl in February.

Draftmark may be one case where timely innovation helps Jarden establish a whole new business. Even for a company that’s already in dozens of verticals, Draftmark could well demonstrate the value for manufacturers of emphasizing innovation no matter what the economic backdrop.

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