Three keys to standout innovation

by Monica Watrous    View Me on Google+
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CHICAGO — Three key factors separate highly successful launches from hundreds of products that debut in a given year, said Larry Levin, executive vice-president of industry insights at Information Resources, Inc. (I.R.I). Of approximately 1,900 new product introductions, only seven are likely to surpass $100 million in sales, Mr. Levin said during a presentation at the Sweets & Snacks Expo held May 20-22 in Chicago.

Simplicity, excitement and wellness drive fruitful innovation. Consumers increasingly are seeking convenient, on-the-go options.

“When you think about the attributes that are important, make it fast, make it easy, don’t slow me down,” Mr. Levin said. “You’ve got to make sure to continue to have snacks that are portable and easy to eat anywhere and everywhere. Consumers don’t have time for complicated products. It’s really important to think about how to make it as simple as possible.”

Next, successful products offer an element of fun. Bold flavors, surprising combinations and unusual textures provide an engaging experience for consumers.

“Bring me that indulgence; bring me that surprise,” he said. “Stimulate my senses, and let me customize the excitement.”

The final area of focus is health and wellness. Super foods, ancient grains, vitamins, real fruit juice, dark chocolate and sea salt were prevalent trends among new products showcased at the expo.

“When did you ever think you’d see quinoa in a candy?” Mr. Levin said. “From an innovation point of view, we see Greek yogurt everywhere. Think about your innovations; what can you do to bring Greek yogurt? Consumers love it. They’re passionate for it.”

Front-of-pack labeling and portion size also are important attributes, he noted.

“Candy is a special treat, but people do have to have it in moderation,” Mr. Levin said.

Successful innovation must also be sustainable, Mr. Levin said. A product’s second year presents a different set of challenges for food makers as new competition emerges.

“You also have to think and prepare for the successes in Year Two,” Mr. Levin said. “New product innovation is tough; it’s really about sustainable innovation.”

The solution to maintaining relevance? Variety.

“Rotating flavor varieties in Year Two is so critical because it drives repeat, repeat, repeat,” he said.

Industry experts and show attendees ranked the most innovative products debuting at the expo. Of 261 launches, dozens were nominated in nine categories.

Click for a slideshow of winners.

The judges also selected a Best in Show recipient based on the number of votes from retailers and wholesalers at the expo combined with the highest scores across all categories of judging. The winner was York Minis bite-size peppermint patties, an extension of the Hershey Co.’s hand-to-mouth platform that also includes Reese’s Minis, Twizzlers Bites and more. Presenting the awards, Phil Lempert, the chief executive officer of Supermarketguru.com and The Lempert Report, said the distinction represents “what we feel will be the outstanding hit of the year, from C-stores to mass merchandisers.”

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