Keurig’s Journey into Connected Appliances

A talk by Rachael Schwartz, General Manager and Senior Director Innovation, Keurig Green Mountain, given at the Back End of Innovation conference.


Schwartz began with two main points:


1.You need a culture of innovation to successfully drive innovation within a company.


  1. Innovation is built upon consumer-led pain points and trends.


A brief history: Keuring was founded in 1990 by three MIT professors who thought there was a better way to make coffee. We miniaturized the process and made it more simple, personalized, and fast. Convenience is the hallmark of our brand. What we also discovered is that spouses may like their own flavors, so personalization is key to our equity.


Keurig has more than 500 varieties from 75 brands, “so our business is as much about these brand relationships as much as the machines that make the beverages themselves.”


Schwartz shared a map of all of the consumer pain points, which the company sees as opportunities for innovation. This journey map helped find the needs in the market.


At the same time, smart appliance trends point the way to solving these consumer pain points. The company then mapped benefits of concepts to consumer pain points. This mapping exercise help set priorities for developing prototypes. The company developed a promise: The best Keurig Experience ever, and then tested the concept.


Then, the company did primary market research. IOT early adopters craved smarter coffee appliances—and were upset the company hadn’t already developed such items.


But those who desire an ideal coffee experience wanted these types of machines—many suburban moms and white-collar workers. “From these sessions, we began to more deeply understand consumer brew behavior.” From the research, personas were developed that explored purchase versus consumption data.


Relationships with consumers allows the company to better target to consumers that actually build relationships: smarter recommendations and automatic reordering, for example.


Three takeways:

  1. Good innovations fall at the intersection of brand, trends and technology, and consumer pain points
  2. Build from consumers insights and pain points
  3. Create a culture that leans into disruption



Q: How simple can you make the set up for connected products?

A: That is the key question—the set up is a barrier. We are trying to make it as simple as possible.


Q: How much does culture play into your analysis of this process?

A: For consumers, our tribe is those who value convenience.


Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN, and the author of Going Electric. Visit to learn more.