VEVEY, SWITZERLAND — Nestle USA is leveraging its 30,000-strong workforce to spark fresh innovation. Its New Business Ventures group partners with teams across the organization to encourage “what if” projects, lending expertise on early-stage trends to test new products and business models that appeal to the evolving tastes of consumers.

Launched in 2017, Nestle’s open channel innovation platform has resulted in nearly two dozen product launches. The latest example marks the company’s first foray into the frozen smoothie space.

Outshine Smoothie Cubes launched this month with three fruit-forward formulations. Varieties include Go-Getter, featuring banana, pineapple, papaya, date paste and beet juice with a touch of chia and B vitamins, and Gut Supporter, featuring strawberries, banana, coconut cream, carrot juice, date paste, beet juice, chia seed and fiber. The third option, Glow To, is made with collagen peptides from Vital Proteins and contains banana, pineapple, mango, date paste, spinach, kale, kiwi, cucumber and chia seed.

Users combine the premixed fruit blends with liquid, let it sit for 15 minutes, then shake for a mess-free smoothie experience.

The concept was generated by Kelaine Cleary, a member of Nestle’s contracting manufacturing group. Initially dubbed Blenderful Smoothie Cubes, her idea was to create a convenient and cost-effective way to get a healthy start to the day.

“She pitched the idea to our executive leadership team, and then we had our collection of chefs design the product,” said Doug Munk, senior director of New Business Ventures for Nestle. “It was greenlit within six months, and we got to market in 20 northern California stores to test it. We demonstrated through sales and velocity that we were on to something, and because of the scale of Nestle, we realized Outshine was the perfect brand for the product.”

Nestle in September added a new raspberry peanut butter flavor to its lineup of Rallies Nut Butter Bombs. The refrigerated snack brand, which also offers brownie almond butter and salted cashew butter bites, debuted online and in select retailers last year and is expanding nationwide this fall.

Nestle first attempted to enter the refrigerated snack space several years ago with GoodBe, a brand of chilled yogurt and granola bars.

“What we heard from consumers was, ‘Yes, we want to shop in the refrigerated section for snacking, but we still want indulgence,’” Mr. Munk said. “That was a great realization of a pivot we needed to make. GoodBe was really focused on better-for-you attributes and leaning into probiotics. We saw an opportunity to dive more into permissible indulgence. That’s what led us to Rallies.”

Key to Nestle’s innovation playbook is testing and learning before making big bets. The company is taking a lean approach to launching new products developed through its internal incubator. As an example, it has been gathering feedback and gaining insights on Boosted Brew, a keto-friendly coffee enhancer.

Created by a Nestle employee and keto diet follower, the shelf stable creamer is available on Amazon.

“Boosted Brew provides great energy, great texture and goes along with what we’re seeing in coffee shops around functional benefits,” Mr. Munk said. “We’ve been testing and learning along the way. We’re going to be scaling it into brick-and-mortar in 2023.”

NestleNBV_Embed.jpgSource: Stouffer's

Nestle new Business Ventures also is focused on reimagining core brands to better meet consumer needs. The open channel platform has sparked new additions to the Stouffer’s brand, including stuffed Mac & Cheese Bites and Lasagna Bites.

Exploring new business models is another goal. Nestle New Business Ventures this year piloted a delivery service model for freshly baked Toll House cookies, delivering warm treats directly to doorsteps in Washington. It plans to explore opportunities in smart vending and personalized nutrition in 2023, Mr. Munk said.

The team also will seek to partner with emerging technology companies to create enhanced customer support solutions.

“As we think about driving ideas across the entire organization, a big focus for us next year is expanding our crowdsourcing efforts to startups,” Mr. Munk said. “We have a new innovation challenge to provide better experiences for consumers wanting to reach out to us.”