When we begin a category review process, there are four stages we go through to get to the stable of future product launches and refreshes. In todays blog, I am going to detail each of these and then bring it together to see how this can create the product differentiation which gives you the product power that we all seek to achieve profitable sales with less stress.
1. Food trends - the beginning of every year heralds a plethora of food trend information as various magazines, bloggers and other organisations herald the new up and coming foods stuffs we are going to eat. The more quirky get coverage in the Daily Mail and we in the food industry work out which ones might just be relevant and which will come and go with no impact. The key subjects of the day at the moment are free from, reducing sugar, nutrient value of vegetables.
We use the food people (www.thefoodpeople.co.uk) for our key source of trends as they provide a great service both generically and also bespoke for specific market challenges. We then look at their data and review what is going on in our market and related markets - when working on sushi new concepts, we often go and look at what the high end chocolate retailers are doing as their packaging and merchandising are very akin to our own.
The biggest challenge in mature food markets is to find the next big thing – coleslaw is the biggest selling pot salad, salmon nigiri the most popular sushi piece, cottage pie best selling ready meal – how do you get the inspiration to find other products that the customer will embrace. Food safaris are a great source of knowledge but its important to take advice on where to go – companies like www.npddirect.com can be really helpful. Going to Japan does not find the most innovative sushi nor does Italy generate the best ideas for pizzas.
2. Customer research
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” – Bill Gates
Understanding why your customers don’t buy is a great source of new concepts. At Ichiban our research showed that customers didn’t like the nori (black seaweed) that is found in a lot of our products. We came across a company in the US who make wraps for sushi from vegetables and fruit and after a lot of hard work making them work in the factory we launched them two years ago. The innovation won us Food manufacture SME innovation of the year 2014.
I always think the washing power guys understand their customers- whiter whites were key 30 years ago and now we all want our colours to be maintained especially black. There is a massive push on fragrance with Febreze and Lenor unstoppables that give 9x more fragrance that fabric conditioner alone! A scary concept but I am sure it is not too over powering.
So how do you find out what the customer wants? Ask them! There are several approaches that we use to get to the heart of the customer.
3. Old fashioned idea generation
I have always worked with my teams using brainstorming or other such techniques to randomly come up with new product concepts. If it is well chaired and the “no idea is a bad idea!” mantra is adhered to then it can provide a great list of ideas and concepts for working on – have a look at www.mindtools.com/brainstm.html
4. Chefs and others - new recipes, packaging etc
Once the research has been done, macro concepts identified, then there is a great opportunity to work with your in house chef or bring in someone to inspire and provide new ideas – we use www.binghamandjones.co.uk who have a great background in added value convenience foods and really come up with some great concepts and tasty food to boot!
Also work with your packaging suppliers to find new ways to package products – the use of straight on trays for improving the visuals of pizzas, cooked meats and yes sushi delivered massive uplift in sales and brought new customers to the categories as they could see the products stimulating purchase.
So that’s a little overview of how to get to the customer needs and drivers and find out what will convince them to buy more – clearly the product needs to be viable and cost effective and in the third article of this series, we will look at how to assess feasibility and to get a product that the customer and consumer will pay for.
If you need any help or advice in this area give me a ring on 0115 714 1965 or email on email@example.com and we can talk about your category review.
Last updated: 27th May 2016