Batten Institute

John Helferich



Bio: Bridging academia and business, John D. Helferich is currently an Adjunct Professor and executive-in-residence at the College of Business Administration at Northeastern University in Boston, where he teaches an MBA course in new venturing.

Prior to these appointments, from 1986 to 2006, Mr. Helferich served as Vice President of University Research and as Senior Vice President of Research and Development for Mars North America. Over the span of his twenty-year career with the Mars company, he conducted research with leading universities to improve management, operations, and innovation systems of Masterfoods USA; was responsible for R&D and quality management; led the integration of the company’s pet care, candy, and rice businesses in the U.S.; and helped Mars create a global research function with central technology platform development with regional product development.

Before working at Mars, Mr. Helferich was a Manager of Research Engineering at Ocean Spray Cranberries and a Group Leader at Procter & Gamble. He graduated from MIT with a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering.

A member of Clemson University’s Packaging Advisory Board and Chair of the UC Davis Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Advisory Board, Mr. Helferich has presented at numerous industry conferences.

Expertise: Design Strategies for Retail Customization 


Fellowship Focus: During his Batten Fellowship, John D. Helferich will collaborate with Faculty Host Kamalini Ramdas on researching and prototyping design strategies for retail customization. Retailers are under tremendous competitive pressure to differentiate their brands, and are asking suppliers for products in configurations that are exclusive (private label goods, etc.) But for manufacturers, creating special retailer-exclusive packs and products erodes their economy of scale, reducing margins by up to 10 points.

By applying the customization framework developed by Kamalini Ramdas and Taylor Randall, John Helferich seeks to develop and apply customization design strategies that can maintain manufacturer margin while meeting the needs of the retailer. The collaboration will examine the complexity of customization activities that occur along the supply chain from manufacturer to retailer. Specifically, data will be collected along the supply chain from firms actively involved in retailing customization, from packaging suppliers through retailers. Working together with Professor Ramdas, Mr. Helferich will then identify a particular customization challenge, develop prototypes and a design intervention, and measure the results of the customization model in collaboration with a sample firm.

Once the results of the customization model have been tested, this collaboration will lead to a research paper for a practitioner-oriented journal as well as the creation of a case study for use in the classroom that will illustrate innovation through the customization process.

Contact Info


Appointment: 2008–2009

Publications & News

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