Building a Collaborative and Sustainable Future for Fishing – Dave’s Story

Get an insider’s view on the world of fishing with David Neill, the Executive VP of Product Development & Innovation at Rapala, as we dive into his exciting role, Rapala’s latest sustainability efforts and exciting new products.

Innovation, People, Sustainability | 4 min read

What does an Executive Vice President, Product Development & Innovation do? 

As VP PD&I my main focus is long-term strategic planning for our product assortments worldwide. This involves analyzing the marketplace today and developing longer term plans for where we can take the product lines in the future. 

Can you discuss a specific long-term goal you have for product development? 

As a group we need to be planning a minimum of three to five years into the future. To accomplish this we work collaboratively with the Regional Product Development Directors, who work with sales people in the field to accurately determine market needs and trends. 

Across all categories we’re striving to build long-term product pipelines which anticipate future changes in the market. In addition, we’re exploring new and innovative materials and components that can be utilized in our products in the future.  

Other top priorities include building and supporting a strong and collaborative product development team globally. We’ve been working aggressively towards this over the last two years ensuring we have strong regional representation in the four main markets of Southern Europe, The Nordics, APAC and North America. This is generally in place now along with strengthened category management support at our headquarters in Helsinki.   

Strengthening the collaborative efforts between PD, Sales, Marketing and Operations is also a key focus, when these departments are effectively collaborating, we end up with the strongest product offerings and go to market plans!

How does Rapala approach sustainability and conservation in the fishing industry? 

Sustainability is really at the core of all new product development planning. Every new product is evaluated early in the process to ensure the most sustainable designs and materials are utilized. 

We just completed a major advance in Rapala wobblers where 100% of these lures will be lead-free by the end of 2023. This was a huge step forward for the Rapala brand and years in the process. Many of the lead-free models are already rolling out of our production facilities.  

From a packaging perspective we continue to refine our offerings across all brands. Reducing the plastic is the primary objective so we are now exploring fully cardboard options wherever possible. One of biggest opportunities on this front is in our accessory lines where the long-term goal is to incrementally remove plastic blisters and clamshells. 

What is a Rapala product you are personally very proud of? 

I’m incredibly proud to be a part of a number of new products we have in the pipeline for 2024, 2025 and beyond. But the credit goes 100% to the team of Category Directors, Product Directors and Managers, Designers, Engineers and Pro-Staff. It takes the full commitment of a fully collaborative team to bring Rapala quality products to market and being a part of that overall team is what makes me the most proud. 

If you were a Rapala lure, which one would you be? 

That’s a fun question and not something I had ever thought about! There are so many iconic lures, but if I had to choose just one it would be an Elite Series lure. 

This recently launched and expanding series embodies the best of both worlds for Rapala’s future. Something we take very seriously and goes into all new products we develop. 

The ultimate goal is to find the perfect balance between the excellence of our legacy balsa baits and then incorporating new and innovative ways to make improvements to create new products such as improved castability, durability and premium paint finishes. To me, this family of lures embodies the traditions of the past and a new innovative direction for the future!