US food group HJ Heinz Company has published its Annual Report to Shareholders, entitled “Growth Through Innovation”, which highlights the operations of the company’s Global Innovation and Quality Center outside Pittsburgh and other product development centres within the group.

“This year’s report is dedicated to the talented men and women at the Heinz Innovation and Quality Center and our other global development centres who are carrying on Heinz’s unparalleled ‘Pure Food’ legacy,” said Heinz chairman, president and CEO William R. Johnson.

The company took the opportunity of the report’s launch to reiterate its commitment to focus on its leading brands in three prime food categories where it adds the most value for consumers: Ketchup & Sauces; Meals & Snacks; and Infant Foods.

Recent food innovations created by the Global Innovation and Quality Center, which employs more than 100 chefs, food technologists, nutritionists, packaging engineers and quality assurance specialists, include Ore-Ida chilled mashed and au gratin potatoes and macaroni & cheese, Ore-Ida Roasted Potatoes and new variants in the Classico sauces range, as well new “to-go” packaging for the Delimex and Bagel Bites brands in the Heinz Hot Snacks brand range. In addition, the report details new launches in the Weight Watchers and Smart Ones ranges.

“Heinz’s commitment to innovation and attentiveness to trends in health and wellness are generating growth in its flagship ketchup category,” the company said. “New varieties such as Organic, Reduced Sugar, No Salt and Hot and Spicy Ketchup Kick’rs, together with novel packaging, have helped increase ketchup sales in the US at a compound annual rate of 7% over the past three years. Similar efforts are producing record market shares in ketchup in several markets across the globe.”

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The report also focuses on individuals working on NPD in the corporation. “The power of innovation begins with our people,” the company said. “Much of Heinz’s new product momentum follows from increased collaboration among cross-functional teams that combine strengthened market research with increased culinary expertise.”

Heinz also said that it planned to continue to increase research and development spending in each of the next two years and increase marketing and advertising support by 19% in the 2007 fiscal year.