US food firm Kraft has launched a customer-led research and development programme, in a bid to re-engage with consumers and tap growing health and wellness trends.
The world's second largest food producer is looking for fresh ideas for new products, packaging and business processes that can be brought to market quickly.
Customers will be able to submit ideas through an online form accessible from Kraft's homepage, or through a freephone telephone number. Cash compensation may be offered to people providing useful ideas.
The company, which owns the Philadelphia and Dairylea cheese brands, claims consumers are looking for innovative products that meet demands for health and wellness, convenience and premium taste, and will concentrate on developments in these areas.
"The consumer is at the core of all our new product innovations at Kraft," said Brian Driscoll, head of the customer development division.
"By leveraging our proprietary technologies and the scale of our company, we can develop great foods and beverages that help consumers around the world eat and live better."
Kraft hopes the innovation drive will build brand loyalty and help offset the 24 per cent fall in profits over the past two years.
In February the firm announced a massive extension to its existing three-year restructuring plan, axing 8,000 jobs and 20 production plants.
It will spend the rest of 2006 working on efficiency gains and product innovation, and claims the financial outlook is stable.
CEO Roger Deromedi said R&D efforts will focus on areas that yield higher revenue-per-pound, to take in value-added and on-the-move products in addition to wellness.
It will build up brands that are in line with these core trends - such as the US South Beach Diet brand.
Demonstrating its commitment to product development, the company recently showcased more than 60 new products at an American food marketing show.