The COVID-19 pandemic proves that disruption and innovation go hand-in-hand. That is, it presents huge opportunities for innovation and growth. Due to social distancing, consumers are forced to resort to using technology and digitalization has enabled access to various application platforms. As physical distancing continues, consumers will require personal space for daily activities and digital applications will be a must. The crisis undoubtedly catalyzes faster adoption of new technologies. Thus, the success of any disruptive innovation depends essentially on how well it solves a problem and at an attractive cost. Businesses must strategically and constantly innovate with speed, keeping their foot on the pedal to ensure profitability, customer satisfaction and continued employee engagement.
The Innovation Excellence Award gives emphasis on businesses that can optimize their business models to take advantage of the technological advancement, resulting in the operational resilience and new growth engine. As the business models adapt to new market realities (i.e., new normal), competitive advantages shift distinctively to make the businesses outstanding. Thai Union Group Public Company Limited (TUG) is awarded with the Innovation Excellence for its outstanding industrial innovation and technology. TUG envisions itself to be the world’s most trusted seafood leader by committing to “Healthy Living, Healthy Oceans” with a focus to lead the industry on sustainability and innovation. The company’s innovative practices are categorized and discussed as follows.
An innovation team at TUG utilizes agile project environments to develop new innovative products and technology together with a club and creative activities to enhance innovative ideas. They are, for example, new sustainable packaging, new patented natural supplement from tuna, plant-based alternative seafood products, and new automated tuna-processing technology. TUG expands the markets for innovation and growth through startups investment. The
company acquires collaborative innovation through the network of international universities, global startups and research institutions. In addition to its internal innovation, TUG reaches out and acts as a connecting point for startups in the areas of health and wellness, functional nutrition, and sustainability. TUG co-institutes the SPACE-F Global FoodTech Incubator and Accelerator program with the National Innovation Agency and Mahidol University to develop and promote deep-tech FoodTech startups. The company helps create a FoodTech ecosystem and successful startups that contribute to the global economy.
TUG considers innovation as a strategic cornerstone that drives sustainable growth and shapes the company’s future. The company thus establishes a world-class research and development (R&D) facility – the Global Innovation Center (GIC) – with Mahidol University to develope new products, packaging and processing. With the GIC, the company launches various value-added products such as ingredients produced from fish by-products and high-quality refined tuna oil. TUG is committed to bringing new innovation to the market through this GIC.
Product/ Service by Innovation Creation and Their Impact
TUG aims to develop groundbreaking solutions to enhance consumer satisfaction, shared value and sustainability through sciences. The company offers nutritious seafood products with proven research by its specialized scientists. Recently, the company expands into the innovative supplement and functional healthy claim products: Tuna Bone Calcium and Tuna Essence. The company extracts a natural calcium from tuna bone using patented technology to create micronized particles (i.e., extraction of nanocrystal structured hydroxyapatite) that enables better absorption in humans. TUG also utilizes a nano technology to extract natural nutrients from tuna that produces an enhanced immune system from selenium and B12.
The company’s GIC employs more than 120 scientists and engineers, including 15 principle investigators from various domestic and international universities. The GIC hosts a diverse faculty with more than 40 Ph.D. scientists from multi-disciplines such as food science, chemistry, biotechnology, and engineering, among others.
Awards and Recognition
In 2019, TUG receives the Innovation Excellence Award by TCEx for outstanding work in innovation, Best Tuna Category in the People Food Awards, Asia Excellence Award for Asia’s Best CEO and Best Investor Relations Company, Ranked No.1 in the DJSI food products industry for two years in a row and in the DJSI for the 6th consecutive year, Amazon’s Choice: Chicken of the Sea Infusions Tuna, and Most Innovative Packaging Development from Food Management Today
Award for packaging design. Recently, thecompany earns the 2020 APAC Employee Experience Best Practice Award.
Innovative practices by other nominated Innovatives companies include the establishment of an innovation center, significant investment in R&D and startups that result in innovative products and services, pursuing new business opportunities through innovative uses of digital technologies, incorporating innovation mindsets and DNA into organizational culture, use of an open innovation approach that promotes internal and external collaboration to increase innovation capacity, and development of RPA software and robotics to replicate routine and standard works by humans, among others.