15_Scott Lutz

Blend and Serve

What do you get when you combine resources from two huge companies (DuPont and General Mills) with a commitment to innovate? A joint venture with the “spirit of the small and the power of the big.”


Scott Lutz
CEO, 8th Continent LLC
Minneapolis, Minnesota


What needed an overhaul?
The ability to nurture a rapidly growing, nascent category in a company that is best at optimizing huge, established categories. In this case, this overhaul had to take place at two big companies (General Mills & DuPont) since they had formed a 50:50 joint venture. Most established corporations find it far easier to steward existing wealth than create future wealth in the form of totally new businesses. In fact, the economic model in Corporate America today strongly encourages getting increasingly better at what you already do rather than building totally new businesses. It seems that as big business evolves it is often very discouraging of innovation.

What was the single biggest obstacle?
Creating an environment that doesn’t just support innovation–it ignites it! It would’ve been easy to be paralyzed by the terrible odds of new product success in the packaged goods industry. And while our parents were terrific in providing all the traditional support and autonomy necessary to start a new company, the inherent barriers to change within two large corporations were crystal clear. However, we intuitively knew that we could fulfill on the huge business potential if we could create an environment that tapped-in to talents that our team members had, but had never accessed. Igniting innovation was dependent on pushing thru our own barriers.

How did you overcome it?
We focused on three areas; Purpose, Insight and Politics. Our key leaders rallied behind the idea that we were doing much more than launching a soymilk business–we were “Guaranteeing the Future of Innovation” for ourselves and our two parent companies. This clear purpose made tough decisions easier. We handpicked every member of the company. No weak links. We found the Yoda’s (in our group) with intimate consumer insight and followed their lead on how we could add emotional value. A vastly superior offering on all key dimensions resulted. And finally, we started playing better politics. Everyone took the business more personally and started leading more courageously. Most importantly, we got much better at picking the right battles to fight. We walked the fine line between being courageous and being stupid.

How have you seen results?
Yes, both the quantitative and qualitative results. Nothing catalyzes a change effort like great results. Just 3 months into the launch, we became the #2 brand. Our business is 30% ahead of objective and growing +15% each week! But we are also seeing less traditional results that indicate our change effort is on the right track. Our culture is distinct from our parents, using their best and discarding the rest. We call it the “Spirit of the Small–the Power of the Big.” We are bringing in new people into the company seamlessly and there is a growing line of people wanting to work on “the Continent.” And finally, while our parents still view us as Corporate Revolutionaries, they’re growing much more comfortable with us.