Hitting the bull's eye with new products

by Jeff Gelski
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Avoid “me-too” products. Aim new products at specific age groups. Reach consumers through cell phones and other mobile devices. Those are three ways food companies may keep their product launches from ending up among the 85 percent of new products that fail, said Phil Lempert, an analyst on consumer behavior, marketing trends, new products and the retail landscape.
Lempert, also known as “The Supermarket Guru,” cited the 85 percent figure from a 2011 article in the Harvard Business Review when he spoke Aug. 6 during a Webinar sponsored by Instantly, a provider of consumer insight tools, and hosted by Food Business News, sister publication to MEAT+POULTRY.
Lempert regarded “me-too” products as companies drawing inspiration from a competitor’s product and then offering their own similar product, perhaps one with a different flavor or a lower price. Consumers are tired of walking through supermarket aisles and seeing imitated products, Lempert said. He also questioned whether line extensions, while they may be successful, should be considered an innovation or a breakthrough item.

Lempert said companies, when creating new products, should try to follow the three C’s: cater to health and wellness, create a memorable “wow” experience, and celebrate food through preparation, aroma and taste. Knowing what type of consumer may like a new product is pivotal.

“Get past the notion that everybody is going to buy your product,” Lempert said.
Millennials want a new adventure every day, shifting from new product to new product, exploring a plethora of ingredients. They are more likely to enjoy “grocerants,” or supermarkets that offer sit-down dining, Lempert said.

People in Generation Z, or those 20 years of age and younger, have different characteristics than millennials, he said. They generally like fresh chicken. When choosing products, they may go back to the basics, or items that people two or three generations younger than them ate.

Baby boomers want to stay young through health and wellness, Lempert said. They are becoming more interested in snacking occasions, including jerky and other snacks with smoked flavors. The aging process may have dulled their sense of smell, which in turn may have affected their ability to taste. Baby boomers in their younger years may have bought medium salsa. Now, they may buy hot salsa, but to them it tastes just how the medium salsa tasted 20 years ago.

Lempert said he foresees an increase in the number of smaller stores while more big supermarkets close. Retail outlets could drop to 20,000 sq. ft. from 50,000 sq. ft. The number of stock-keeping units in a retail outlet could drop to 20,000 from 40,000.

The amount of retail shelf space for new products may fall. Companies might need new avenues to alert consumers to new products, such as through mobile technology. Companies should make the effort to get an image of their new product on Instacart, an on-line grocery delivery system, Lempert said.
Companies in the past have tested potential product launches through focus groups, he said. For an alternative route, he said companies could test new products and communicate with consumers, especially younger consumers, in a language they understand – cell phones.

Instantly offers Concept Test, an online tool for early-stage assessment of new product and promotion ideas, and Product Watch, in which consumers are invited to take photos of new products on retail shelves and answer a survey.

Click here to register free and access the webinar.
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