At Innova Flavors, we know you have choices when it comes to which flavoring company you choose work with, which is why we focus on building strong relationships with our customers by providing value-added support.
“The whole win-win scenario isn’t true,” Vice President of Sales Jorge Castrillon says. “You aren’t building strong relationships unless you bring value. You have to present the business case and show the customer that with your product their making money or saving money – it’s business."
Castrillon came to Innova Flavors six years ago to develop and lead the commercial team and brought with him a new approach to selling flavor with the Challenger sales model. Rather than taking the solution selling approach that focuses on “you have a problem; I have a solution,” which is how sales teams throughout the world operate, Castrillon challenges Innova’s team to think differently.
By teaching, tailoring, and taking control of the conversation, Innova Flavors’ commercial team is better prepared for engagement with our customers and focuses on adding real value, resulting in a change in the sales culture that drives sustainable relationships rather than only transactional ones. Implementing the Challenger sales model takes time because it requires a culture transformation that emphasizes the importance of thinking outside the box.
Q: How is the Challenger model different than traditional sales models and what is the discovery process?
Castrillon: Sales as a function has gone through changes in the industry, and right now flavor houses are challenged with growth. It used to be all about solution selling where the interaction with customers ended after providing your solution, and that’s how it worked for many years. The Challenger model and the discovery method aren’t about having a super salesperson, but about having discipline and the skills to learn about the customer’s company and segment during the preparation process for better engagement.
The Challenger model adds real value by presenting commercial insights to consumers and that comes with a specific skillset that you might think you have, but if you don’t act in a disciplined way it won’t happen. That’s what we have done over the past five years, which has come with a lot of learning experiences and we aren’t totally there yet. It’s a process and 80 percent of our commercial team is new because I am a true believer this is the way to go. If you look at the profile of our sales team, we hired people with MBAs and management styles because the idea behind the Challenger model is having strategic thinkers and planners to offer a solution.
When done successfully, the Challenger model does just that – it challenges customers to think differently through professional discussion and teachings. Reframing the conversation is not about telling them they are wrong but presenting a case that says, ‘This is our perspective and vision. You know your company and we are here as partners and this is why we think it can work out.’ Or ‘Here is the business opportunity and here’s how much business you could be getting.’
Q: What changes are you seeing in the market today?
Castrillon: The trends we saw before the pandemic centered on natural, clean label, organic and non-GMO. Plant-based is a big trend and when it started it was about sustainability, the consequences of raising animals for slaughter and the impact on the environment, which all created a strong story. It’s all about economy of scale and plant-based is still expensive, but once it gets the volume it will go the other way.
Our role at Innova Flavors is very important because it’s all about flavor and masking in the plant-based segment, but that only applies in developed markets. In the U.S., Japan, and Europe, for example, it applies. South of the U.S. border it doesn’t really apply because mixing soy and meat is common in other countries and regulations are different. In South America, Mexico, and other countries, they have been making hybrid protein for years because they can produce more volume at a lower cost.
We aren’t out of the pandemic yet and right now it’s all about feeding people. As a result, we are seeing products that should have been on the way out like canned soups that are overproducing because who cares about clean labels when you just need food. Natural and clean label will remain strong, but the pandemic showed us it’s not always about what’s good and bad, but what you really need.
The pandemic also increased consumer desire for immunity-boosting ingredients, and we are seeing a lot of new product launches where that’s concerned. Any product with vitamin C or active wellness ingredients will sell a lot; immunity will become key.
Q: How did the pandemic impact the commercial team at Innova Flavors?
Castrillon: Sales was impacted in a big way and everyone on the team feels the same. I was on the road three weeks a month and not being able to engage face-to-face is difficult especially for new members of the team. We moved from face-to-face to virtual and that will be the new normal. Before the pandemic, we hosted the whole presentation and tasting show in-person, but now we are doing tasting sessions online and hosting Zoom meetings. What we have learned is that the virtual tools we have are good enough for us to be efficient and practical.
Q: What are you most excited about looking to the future?
Castrillon: We live in a dynamic and changing world. Food will always be here, and flavor is the No. 1 driver of purchase intent. If we continue to perform, the options are endless. What excites me about the future is how we will continue to add value from a flavor perspective and through the Challenger model, as well as new segments like health and wellness, plant-based, and in the future, hopefully sweets and beverages.
Did you know? Jorge Castrillon, vice president of sales at Innova Flavors, was born in Colombia and started his career as an engineer in industrial production which combined chemical and industrial engineering and food science. More of a social butterfly, Castrillon knew his personality wasn’t a match with working inside a plant all day so he changed careers and entered sales. Prior to joining Innova Flavors in 2015, Castrillon worked for Monsanto, Firmenich, our sister company Griffith Foods and Kerry.
When he’s not at work, Castrillon loves to play soccer as well as any other team sport. He enjoys watching movies that have a good story and hopefully a happy ending. His favorite movies include Forrest Gump and The Shawshank Redemption. Castrillon also loves listening to music and is passionate about dancing. “I’m not okay with not dancing,” he adds.