Innovation insights from I.F.T.16

by Monica Watrous
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Purple ketchup
Heinz EZ Squirt purple ketchup, despite its short time on the market, helped raise brand awareness.

CHICAGO — Remember purple ketchup? The vividly colored condiment from H.J. Heinz Co., part of the Heinz EZ Squirt range geared at children, debuted in 2002 and was discontinued a few years later. The product has been largely considered a flop, even listed among the biggest food flops of all time in an article from Business Insider.

Lu Ann Williams disagrees.

Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights

“Purple ketchup didn’t fail,” said Ms. Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, Arnhem, The Netherlands. “It was a 100% success because after that 100% of kids knew what Heinz ketchup was. They had 100% brand awareness after that, even if it was only on the market for (a short time).”

At the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition, Ms. Williams highlighted examples of innovation for all senses — not just taste.

“There’s just a lot of opportunity for innovation to think about food in a different way,” Ms. Williams told Food Business News.

Take sound, for example. Crunchy or crispy claims increased 15% last year in global launches of sweet baked foods, dairy desserts and chocolate confectionery products. Within the snack category, Ms. Williams used the example of Doritos Jacked tortilla chips from PepsiCo, Inc., which are engineered to produce a louder crunch than typical chips.

Doritos Jacked
Doritos Jacked tortilla chips are engineered to produce a louder crunch than typical chips.

“It’s thicker, it’s crunchier, it makes a sound when you bite it,” Ms. Williams said. “You wouldn’t think about how you hear a food product. It crunches, but when it really crunches, it is a different experience.

“It’s really interesting because hearing is not something you would normally associate in a positive way with food, but it can be.”

Smell also may be a factor in product innovation, Ms. Williams said.

“We saw a 26% increase in sweet products that had a fragrance or an aroma claim in one year,” she said, referring to descriptors such as “with a light, fruity aroma” on packaging.

Food with texture claims
Texture claims on product packaging have grown in popularity.

In terms of touch, Innova Market Insights tracked a 16% increase in global sweet category launches featuring texture claims.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to combine textures and to think of something different to do with a sound or a smell,” Ms. Williams said. “It can give you a new way of thinking about things.”

Appealing to the fourth sense, sight, many new products feature transparent packaging, designed to capture shoppers’ attention.

YoCrunch yogurt
Many new products feature transparent packaging, designed to capture shoppers’ attention.

“Clear packaging is everywhere, so you have that whole visual appeal,” Ms. Williams said. “There are so many different ways to do it. Like toppings. All of a sudden you start to see a lot of yogurts with a cap on the top. So that does a lot of things for you. It communicates it looks different and that there’s something in there that you like.”

Of course, taste trumps all senses in food and beverage innovation, and that has translated to an uptick in extreme and exotic flavors, Ms. Williams said. For example, global dairy launches featuring a tropical or exotic fruit flavor increased 40% in 2015.

“Everything is becoming so fragmented and there’s so much choice everywhere,” Ms. Williams said. “You do have to be a lot more extreme to stand out.” 
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