Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Clabber Girl Moving Forward with MBA Student Recommendations from Kelley Connect Week

It was around this time last year when a new class of MBA students finished presenting their recommendations to faculty and executives from Clabber Girl Corporation. I recently followed up with Lori Danielson, Vice President of Clabber Girl, about her team’s experience working with our online MBA students last August. 
Every Fall and Spring, our online MBA students come to the Indiana University Bloomington campus for KelleyConnect Week where they work on real cases from both local (first year) and global (second year) businesses. The fall 2013 case was from Clabber Girl, an industry leader in customized food products based in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Clabber Girl has maintained relevance and growth for over 160 years by adapting to changes in the food industry and innovating new products.  When they came to us in 2013, Clabber Girl’s leadership team was evaluating several options for growth and diversification including expanding the production of their “Innova” product lines; acquiring or partnering with other companies; and entering into animal feed industry. Over one hundred of our MBA students used what they learned from the Kelley School professors along with their own research and business experience to prepare fifteen minute presentations for the Clabber Girl team. Interviewing Lori and her colleagues was part of the students’ research process. Lori explained why she really enjoyed this part:
“Doing thirty minute interviews with more than twenty student teams was very time consuming, but very beneficial. This would have been worthwhile for us even without the students’ recommendations. The Kelley students challenged our beliefs and grilled us with questions, which helped us critically analyze our strategy.”

Another part of the students’ research process was visiting the Clabber Girl plant in Terre Haute.  Lori provides insight as to why this was so important:

We really wanted the students to understand both our culture and the physical space that we were working with. We’re in there every day, but when we get that many new faces to walk through the plant we’re bound to get new perspectives. And we got what we were hoping for. Many of the presentations identified new ways to think about our equipment placement and plant operations.”

Since that Kelley Connect Week, Clabber Girl has moved forward with their research and development of new ingredients for animal feed and have manufactured their first product. Sales of micro-encapsulated products such as the InnovaBake and InnovaFresh that our MBA students evaluated will have nearly doubled in 2014 compared to 2013. Lori commented on Kelley Direct’s contribution to the company:

“The research that Kelley Direct MBA students did helped us grasp the market potential of our products. Their work confirmed our strategies and gave us the confidence we needed to proceed. I would highly recommend working with the Kelley School, and especially taking the time to meet with the students. That process was very rewarding for my colleagues and me.”

Not only do the Kelley Connect Week cases benefit the businesses we work with, but our online MBA students leave knowing that they made a difference for a real company and walk away with a new appreciation for what it is like to be an executive.

About Clabber Girl

The genesis of Clabber Girl was a wholesale grocery store opened in 1850. The family business added a storeroom and spice mill behind the store in 1869 and experimented with commercial production of food ingredients.  By 1879, Hulman and Company was selling its first baking powder formula under the name “Crystal and Dauntless”. Over time, Hulman and Company refined its baking powder formula and re-introduced it in 1887 under the new brand name “Milk”. The powder was sold in tins that prominently featured on the label a girl holding a plate of baked goods.  Over time, the company observed that when customers asked for its product in grocery stores, they often referred to it as “that tin with the girl on it.” Yielding to customer popularization after one last refinement of the formula, the product was renamed “Clabber Girl Baking Powder” in 1923 and today is one of the oldest brands in America.

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