Is the new product that was just presented to you a hero or a dog?
Here’s advice to help you decide.
What are some hidden risks in new product evaluation? Unless manufacturers have been thorough in their consumer research, a new product may have shortcomings that weren’t identified in testing. Consumers either couldn’t articulate these problems, or the problems just didn’t show up because not enough homework was done by the manufacturer. When evaluating a new product introduction, here’s a checklist of questions you should ask the manufacturer:
- Have you done a comprehensive consumer attitudes and usage study?
- Have you identified a significant consumer need gap or problem that the new product solves?
- Has the product gone through an extensive product testing and verification process?
- Are the target consumers and their shopping habits clearly identified?
- Does their packaging and marketing communications program articulate the product’s attributes and benefits?
- Does the product deliver on taste, appetite appeal, and healthfulness parameters?
- Is the introductory marketing program strong enough to drive significant consumer awareness and trial?
What key attributes should you look for in a new product?
Great taste is still the top priority. You’re also looking for how much incremental sales and profit the new product will generate for the category. New products that offer real innovation in packaging, flavor, or preparation tend to drive the most category growth. Consider rising crust frozen pizza, or steam-in-bag vegetables.
Most major food manufacturers are developing new products offering health and wellness, convenience and indulgence. You’ll want to prioritize those attributes depending on their importance to your shopper base. For example, older, more affluent shoppers naturally tend to seek out health and wellness products, while convenience products often skew to younger, time-pressed consumers.
How do you evaluate the manufacturer?
Be sure to review the manufacturer’s track record. Does it tend to add new and exciting products, or me-too’s? Does it have effective consumer and trade marketing programs? Does it follow through on account-specific programs? Does it closely monitor the progress of its new items and provide additional support if needed? Totally separate from slotting, look at the total investment and the resulting incremental sales and profits the manufacturer provides for your category.
Any advice on which products to delist?
Don’t just rank items on unit and dollar movement, and then cut from the bottom. Recent SKU rationalization missteps at some of the nation’s largest grocery retailers show this isn’t wise. Delist redundant flavors, varieties and package forms despite the fact that they may have higher volume than more unique, niche items.
How can I get manufacturers to bring innovation to my private label business?
Corporate mandates have required some buyers to grow their private label share north of 25%. The resulting onslaught of new private label SKU’s includes many weak imitations that struggle to survive. If you find yourself in this situation, try partnering with innovative small and mediumsized manufacturers.
Many smaller companies have very innovative products and ideas but struggle to get broad distribution on their new branded products. If you offer to help them build their branded business in return for more innovative private label products, you are more likely to get a strong reception. Manufacturers invest millions in R&D before bringing new-to-theworld products to market. They don’t want to give away product or packaging innovation without something significant in return. But working with them as a trusted partner may well produce a win-win for all.