Innovation

How to create an innovative product, according to the inventor of the “Cronut”

Emma Koehn /

As an entrepreneur it’s tempting to spend every waking moment thinking about your business, but one of the world’s most inventive food professionals says you’d be better served learning about something unrelated to your craft.

Award-winning pastry chef Dominique Ansel discussed his approach to creativity and product development in a recent Q and A session at Google headquarters in New York. He explained some of his best flashes of inspiration, which have led to signature food crazes including a “Frozen S’Mores” product and the croissant-doughnut hybrid, the Cronut, came about when he was focusing on arts other than cooking.

“I’ve always been curious … about travelling, about learning about different cultures, about meeting people. About seeing what’s out there, and not just staying in the kitchen,” Ansel said. 

A few years ago I was looking at nail art. I don’t paint my nails … but it got me inspired for different techniques for cake glazing.”

From travelling to new places to learning skills outside the scope of his usual workplace, Ansel says he tries everything to find inspiration and create products that will connect with his customers.

“I have a pottery wheel in the kitchen,” he says, explaining it comes in handy for trying new piping techniques for his pastries.

Ansel says the products that most easily capture the imagination of customers are ones that let people experience the familiar in new ways, which is why he says the frozen ‘S’mores’ dessert he created has been so successful.

There are “no rules” for how long an entrepreneur should take to develop a new idea, but the best concepts come from people who are patient enough to work through and problem solve, says Ansel.

It’s hard work and just a good stamina to like, never give up. Sometimes it takes us a few days [to develop a recipe]. The Cronut took me over three months.”

Watch the full session below.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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