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Meet the team at Cambridge Design Partnership – a brief profile of the experts, engineers and interesting people that work here. This month we’re talking to Chris Houghton, our Brand Innovation & Packaging specialist, who’s been with the company for nearly 6 months. Chris is attending several conferences over the next couple of months including; Food Matters Live, Global Innovation Forum, and PACE Forum in Amsterdam - he would be delighted to meet with any other attending delegates.

What background do you come from and how do you apply this knowledge to your current role?

My professional background has been working for design & innovation consultancies. I began my career designing and developing medical, audio, telecoms and footwear products.

Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to work on an array of challenges across many brands and sectors. I believe diverse knowledge and experiences are essential to nourish broad, creative thinking that delivers game-changing innovation. My core expertise over the past 16 years is within the FMCG sector. This is a key focus for me here at CDP - helping brands identify new opportunities and delivering successful products and packaging. 

What attracted you to CDP?

There were many facets in my decision to choose CDP over other consultancies. On occasion I worked with CDP on collaborative projects and I highly respected their qualities as people and professionals.

The timing coincided well with CDP’s formalised Front-End Innovation capabilities - I felt my qualities would complement and complete the research, consumer insight, packaging and design team who are seamlessly integrated with all the other experienced, multi-disciplinary specialists at CDP. And finally the state-of-the-art facilities here are impressive and are one of many assets the company invests in that has contributed to its continual growth. 

What do you see as hot trends in FMCG at the moment and what is coming up in the future?

One growing trend is the rise of own label products from the major supermarkets. They have put sustained pressure on brands across many categories, especially commoditised foods. Campaigns from the likes of Aldi have aggressively gone head to head with brands challenging the loyalty of shoppers.

The proposition of significant price savings, with seemingly similar product quality has prompted many market leaders to react. The multinational, brand owners in the short term have tried to provide reassurances about their product quality, with story telling around their benefits, production process or provenance mainly via communication channels. Longer term, more meaningful strategies have been drawn up to deliver better performing product experiences that are harder for supermarkets to replicate, with innovative packaging solutions being key.

As for the future, true sustainability remains a challenge that affects all sectors and companies. It’s fantastic to see the traction the Circular Economy has gained within big businesses, particularly within the FMCG community. As designers and strategic consultants we have a responsibility to tirelessly promote its principles across all of the sectors our work takes us, embed it into our creative solutions and adopt it into our lives.

Who do you admire that has provided inspiration in your career?

I’ve had so many colleagues past and present that I’ve learnt from and admire but Bernard Sams, stands out as being especially pivotal, I worked for him for 5 years until 2004. Bernard, a prolific designer and inventor for the last 50 years, inspired me to take responsibilities throughout the design process from the first insight through to the completed product. He was responsible for designing the world’s first insulin pen and his principles of design are akin to that of Dieter Rams, one of several  industrial design pioneers I admire. I have a Braun chronograph that provides a daily reminder of Dieter and his blend of timeless design (no pun intended) and innovative engineering.

What interests do you have outside work?

Most of my time outside of work is spent with my children, I’ve two boys aged 4 and 6. We like to explore the trails and woodlands around our village, we love building new creations with Lego and playing football together. Outside of this I enjoy hill walking in the Malvern region, watching football (with a beer), or a film/boxset (over a glass of red wine) with my wife. I occasionally play tennis, badminton and golf. Being surrounded by golf courses here in Toft I’m determined to start playing again and release some of my golf balls back into the wild for others to find and care for more responsibly.

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