New Product Innovation in a Food Micro-business
I worked in a world class innvoation company for many years. Mars have a reputation for bringing fantastically innovative products to market, and I was very proud to be involved in many during my years working there – Whiskas Pouch, Microwavable Rice, Dolmio PastaBakes, Mars Planets to name just a few. Being that close to the way that true consumer innovation happens, its been quite a journey trying to use the learning to develop new products in Breckand Orchard.
These are my biggest learnings to date about innovating in a small food business:
- SMALL = NIMBLE
Being small can be a positive advantage. The risk can be lower, you can move faster and be very nimble.
- LET IT GO
Be brutal with your range – knock out any underperforming lines. Have benchmarks for how you want them to sell….if they fall below this, then cull them. Why? to create the space to bring new products to market, ones that will sell better than the ones they replace. In the trade slow sellers are known as ‘shelf-warmers’ and no one will thank you for having a shelf warmer in your range.
- YOU CANNOT KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER/CONSUMER TOO WELL
Customers and consumers are not neccessarily the same thing [though sometimes they are!]. Once you know which customers and consumers you are targetting with your product, so everything you can to get to know them. You can’t know too much. The more you know, the more you will understand what they want, the better you will be able to innovate against their needs and wants
- EARLY ENGAGEMENT WORKS
Share your thinking early – just running early thoughts past your customers can get their early feedback. It could be a way of shaping your own thinking whilst you are mid-process. You can often discover valuable points that can be incorporated and which you might otherwise have overlooked.
- TALKING TO CUSTOMERS IS QUICK AND EASY
Social networks really play into the hands of small business………..fantastic tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can give you very quick feedback for zero cost [save the cost of your time!]. Yes, I know the people that you get feedback from may not be the exact customer demographic that you are targetting – but it will give you some instant feedback to let you know if you are heading in the right direction.
- HAVING FAILURES CAN BE THE BEST THING
Good product innovation is also about knowing when to walk away from an idea! Much as you may like a new flavour or a new product idea, if it doesn’t resonate with customers then knocking it on the head early may be the most successful outcome in the future!
- CREDIT CRUNCHES CAN FREE UP THINKING
Starting up a new business is always hard on budgets and cash flow. Adding in a credit crunch just makes the need for effective innovation at the lowest cost even more key! There are loads of great FREE tools out there to help – SurveyMonkey just being one. Innovation doesn’t need to be expensive on the budget.
- TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
No matter what customer and consumer research says, its important to trust your instincts. If research says to launch something which doesn’t feel right, then its probably not right. Its important to put all results through an intuition filter!
- THINK ABOUT THE TIMING OF YOUR LAUNCHES
Try and think of the best time to launch new products – when are your customers looking for great new products? When is the best time for your distributors?
- ENJOY IT
Launching new products is fun, it allows the creative juices to come alive……just enjoy it!
These are my learnings – but what are yours? Any top tips you can share?