Conagra Brands is celebrating its 100-year anniversary – a milestone reached by continually adapting to people’s ever-changing tastes in food and the evolving needs of its retail customers. With a rich heritage in Omaha, the company continues to excel by providing employees with a collaborative, high-energy culture and investing in the creation of innovative and contemporary food.
“Our innovation approach is driven by consumers. When we create meaningful products that deliver what they want, we know we’ve done things right,” says Omaha-based Mindy Simon, chief information officer.
Founded in Nebraska in 1919 and still guided by an entrepreneurial spirit, Conagra Brands and its diverse portfolio of food brands are known worldwide. Its iconic names, including Birds Eye, Slim Jim and Healthy Choice, share shelf and freezer space with emerging brands such as Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP, Duke’s and Gardein.
“As a company, we’re only as good as our food and right now, we’re making fantastic food,” says Tom Frain, director of restaurant and culinary design at Conagra’s Center for Food Design and Technology in Omaha. “There are so many culinary trends – plant-based diets, hotter-than-hot spice, ancient grains, etc. – and our team has the fun job of figuring out how to bring those trends to consumers in a relatable way.”
The journey toward developing those new products begins with data, efficiently mined by Conagra Brands’ Global Business and Information Systems team in Omaha, using automation and other new and evolving technologies.
“We look at data around consumer behavior and search for specific product attributes that are driving growth. These can be flavors, form factors, or even items that are trending but may not even be related to food,” Simon says. “From there, our Research & Development (R&D) team works on applying these attributes to new or existing products while our Supply Chain team remains agile to source new ingredients quickly. And our Human Resources team supports innovation by helping make sure we have the best and brightest employees in the industry. Cross-functional collaboration is critical to our innovation process.”
All of those divisions – plus finance, procurement and other functions – make up the 1,300 employees based in Conagra Brands’ downtown Omaha campus, which is the company’s largest workforce.
“There are countless examples of contributions our R&D team, and all our Omaha-based employees, have made to our success over the years,” Simon says. “The Healthy Choice brand, which was originally conceived by former CEO Mike Harper in 1985, is a perfect example of how we’ve kept a brand on-trend and successful.”
Conagra Brands introduced its Healthy Choice Power Bowls two years ago.
“By applying growth attributes like increased and better-quality protein, provocative flavors and sustainable packaging, we created a new line of Healthy Choice products that were more competitive in the marketplace,” Simon says.
Beyond creating and selling innovative new food, Conagra Brands supports the Omaha community through a range of initiatives, including its annual Month of Service volunteer program, United Way fundraising campaign, and Shine the Light on Hunger holiday fundraising campaign, which supports Food Bank for the Heartland.
“Omaha is a place where we live, work, play and serve,” Simon says. “Just this year, The Civic 50 recognized Conagra Brands as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.”
As it celebrates 100 years – and eyes the century ahead – growing stale simply isn’t an option.
“Conagra Brands, as a company, has gone through some incredible, exciting changes in the last few years. As we modernized our business, it made sense that we modernized our food offerings, too,” Frain says.
Career opportunities are plentiful with Conagra Brands in Omaha and beyond. For more information, visit careers.conagrabrands.com.