The success of a food product depends upon maintaining superior and consistent product quality so consumers will continue to keep buying the product. Wouldn't it be great to get feedback from actual users in a timely and efficient manner?

Now it is possible with Q-View, a new tool offered by Product Dynamics (Orland Park, Ill.), a division of RQA Inc. “It's been difficult to get point-of-use data in a reasonable and cost effective way,” says Pam Eitmant, managing director and founder of Product Dynamics. Usually, companies get consumer feedback by conducting central location or in-home use tests, which are time and cost intensive.

Consumers can be targeted by geographical areas, store types and other criteria.

Consumer Feedback: 24/7

Working with its parent company, RQA Inc., field representatives tag products in stores with invitations to respond to a survey within 24 hours of using the product. Buyers then simply call in to an electronic interactive voice response system (IVR) or log onto an Internet website to give their opinions. Importantly, company representatives can access results 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to track consumer opinions and deliver timely information to their clients.

Q-View was designed to work as an add-on to Retail Quality Audits conducted worldwide by RQA. Audits are used to check facings on the shelf, inspect packaging conditions and gauge the condition and age of products (as well as other factors that affect retail sales.) RQA representatives, who perform field audits, place neck tags or pressure-sensitive labels on the products to provide consumer feedback.

The normal consumer response rate is 6-7%, according to Eitmant, with some 80% coming in during the first week or two. Since consumers are asked typical demographic questions—age, income, family size, etc.—companies also obtain user profiles. And, since RQA's 6000+ field force offers coverage to retail stores worldwide, food companies can target specific geographic locations (e.g., retirement communities) and outlet types where they wish to conduct Q-View.

Survey Design

Product Dynamics works with the client's representative from R&D, quality, marketing or other departments to design the Q-View survey. It typically includes ratings on overall product acceptance and quality, opinions about selected sensory or packaging characteristics and purchase interest. Data also is summarized, tracked and analyzed by a PD staff member.

“It's a way to be proactive about maintaining product quality,” says Eitmant. “It helps clients understand if their products are changing once they reach the retail shelf. And, they can get feedback from real buyers after using the product in a real world situation.”

Companies also can use Q-View when rolling out a new product or after making changes in a product's formulation or packaging appearance. “Once scale-up happens, unexpected things can occur,” Eitmant says. “Plants may be using ingredients from different sources that may result in changes in finished product.”

It also can be an efficient way to check production consistency both within and across manufacturing plants. Products can be selected from different warehouses, different plants and different production dates to make sure they are equally well liked and have comparable sensory characteristics.

If concerns about a product should arise as a result of the monitoring, Product Dynamics and RQA Inc. have the resources to help with R&D and other product development matters, and to provide solutions at the manufacturing facility.

For more information:
Pam Eitmant at 708-364-7060 or 
Larry Platt at 630-512-0011