HoneyBaked Ham: A Real World Example that Innovation is alive and well in companies across the world

  Craig Kurz, CEO, leads innovation from the front by being the first to prototype new ideas with customers.

HoneyBaked Ham, by all normal measures, should be a very conservative, risk averse and slow paced company. 

They sell the ham that adorns many family Thanksgiving, Easter or Christmas dinner tables.  By its very nature that product should be steeped in tradition and never change. 

Plus, they’re a third generation owned company.  And while that in and of itself is a feat [check out this HBR article on family generations business survival rates], third generation owned are notorious for “spending the company jewels” and drive the company into the ground.

But somehow, HoneyBaked bucks all these norms – and then some.

How?  Innovation – lots of it.

In fact, the foundation of the entire company was in innovation – as is common in most businesses.  In this case, it started from a patent on a spiral slicing machine and bloomed into today’s 460 locations across the nation.

And today that spirit of innovation thrives and is exhibited in some very tangible ways.

  1. Innovation Leadership from the Top.  Craig Kurz, CEO since 1996, supports innovation – warts and all.  It means a steady commitment even when times get tough.  It means staying the course and taking an active role.  And it means getting out in front and demonstrating to your employees that you’re willing to be the first one to try something new with customers – just like you’re asking them to do.
  2. Fail FAST, Fail Cheap™ isn’t the exception, it’s the rule.  HoneyBaked is perpetually trying, testing and trying again with everything.  Whether it’s a menu item or a whole new store format, they experiment and learn constantly.  That way, by the time they go to a national launch they’ve already figured out what works and reduced the risk on the ideas that are truly different.
  3. Meaningful Uniqueness over Mindless Marketing.  Sure, every company needs to stir up some new news to keep customers engaged.  But HoneyBaked makes an overt effort to support the more meaningful ‘game-changer’ innovation over marketing trickery. 

And they continue to innovate today – launching a new summer menu in some locations this year in order to test and learn before taking it to new markets.  [Check out a full write up here]


HoneyBaked Ham Company uses Innovation Engineering® - an approach that transforms innovation from a random gamble into a reliable system.  Contact them to Learn More.