Smithfield Foods officials report that the company has closed shop on its Innovation Group, originally developed to creating new products for the company's customers. The unit was shut down in December, and its Web site has been removed. 

Rolled out in 2003, the Smithfield Innovation Group came on to the scene when Smithfield bought the Global Culinary Solutions consultancy. Reportedly, five people made up the unit, including Chef Michael Formichella.

Smithfield statement cited "many recent cost-reduction efforts" as the reason for eliminating the Innovation Group. The statement pointed out that new product development has been moved to the independent operating company level, and that "new product development activity [is] continuing at its usual pace."