Innovation and New Product Development

Innovation is the introduction of something new, rather than imitation. Innovation can be totally new (breakthrough innovation), an incremental line extension or category innovation (like repositioning). Other innovations include moving toward healthy or improved taste, adding safety or convenience to packaging, or adding other new or convenient features. For successful innovation, consumers must be willing to buy into the idea, so sellers are able to make a profit.

The reasons consumers purchase new products are often because of advertising and television. Advertising around the total product category also promotes trying new products within the category. Other reasons are personal recommendations by friends, position on store shelves, packaging innovation, discounted prices and purely new ingredients.

New product development is driven by consumer tastes and preferences, progress in science and technology, competitor activities and pressure on price. Consumer preferences are influenced by international travel, as well as a demand for convenient, yet healthy, products. Trends in new product development include convenience and portability, health and functionality, lower carbs and good protein, lower fat, indulgence, organics and individuality.

New product launches during 2004-2006 showed 40% advertised health and wellness, 18% advertised convenience, 17% were premium in class, and 15% were advertised as an ethical choice.

Opportunities for new product development platforms include reformulating to improve health and taste, reintroducing products to provide for more convenience, repositioning to reinvent a current brand, renewing focus on technology improvements to outperform from an efficiency side and reinvigorating through a combination of efforts.

The top consumer needs are wellness, weight management, energy and vitality, and nutrition. Immediate health challenges include the obesity epidemic. According to the National Institute of Aging, cognitive diseases are a big issue, with 4.5 million U.S. adults suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Parkinson’s disease affects one million people in the U.S., and they typically are over 50 years old.

Consumers want to have their cake and to eat it, too. They are interested in functional ingredients like omega-3s, antioxidants and vitamins. Manufacturers are taking a new look at old spices and incorporating them into products for a new look. Dehydrated onions, garlic, mustard seed, red pepper, black pepper, sesame, flax, cumin, ginger and poppy are all adding to new innovations. Big trends include premium gourmet, yet healthy; guiltless gourmet; authenticity in flavor or “real” ethnic food; and enjoying new flavor combinations.
“Innovation and New Product Development,” Mike Buttshaw, national sales and marketing manager, Hormel Specialty Products,,
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Children play a significant role in household purchasing decisions. For them, “it’s all about me”--personally, socially, internally and externally. They have specific likes and dislikes, as well as their own ideas which may seem gross, extreme or unusual to adults. Color plays a role, and attraction varies by product type, as long as it makes sense.

Children claim branded products taste better than identical, unbranded items. Brands with which kids have bonded tend to remain with them throughout life. This accounts for the resurgence of brands from the 70s and 80s. While children tend to stick with a product they like, they will experiment around it.

By incorporating boys and girls into product development, new product developers can be immersed into a kid’s world. By seeing things through children’s eyes, developers can experience what is important to kids. Tools exist which can help the product developer with this immersion.

Virtual-based tools might ask children what they just ate and why, as well as the good and bad about it. For older age groups, targeted, simplistic questions are sent and replied via text messaging at appropriate times. The information received gives a perspective on the role of the product, how it got to them and what it did for them.

Activity-based tools involve prototyping sessions. Groups of target kids are gathered and taken through a series of exercises in which they build products to fit the specific assignment. Exercises are developed to gain insight into specific areas of interest around a particular product.

Getting children involved “deep in design” allows participation and guidance, while actively developing a product. It lets kids take a developer to places they normally may not go, and vice versa. The methods can be used for any element, including packaging. Other tools used include reaction panels and teaming.

The “mom” factor cannot be ignored at any age group. While not the driver, it must be appeased. All the tools can have a mom factor incorporated by various manners. Moms can observe their children’s sessions and provide input, comment on results and participate with younger children.

Understanding the target is key to developing the right product, and the way to do this is to involve them in the process. Children give their best insight to their peers. Product developers and kids make a great team. The methodology can be adapted for specific needs, and alternative approaches can be developed.
“Kids Say the Darndest Things: Incorporating Kids in Your Product Development Process,” Judy Lindsey, vice president and general manager, Product Dynamics,,
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

People, Products and Processes

The objective of this presentation was to stimulate the thinking and enhance actions of the product developer to maximize the potential for success in new product development (NPD). Effective NPD includes doing the right thing and doing it in the right way. In other words, developing the right product--with the right process.

NPD involves products, processes and people. Developing the tools for effective NPD is all about asking the right questions. The questions that should be applied at every stage of NPD are who, why, what, how and will? Who is buying the product? Why will they buy the product? What is the buyer’s expectation? How will they experience it (meaning the purchase, the preparation and the consumption or use)? Will they pay the price and repurchase? The answers to these questions allow the product developer to be effective in designing the “product experience.”

Tactical tools that are important for developers include staying involved at the bench level. They should know the resource types and allocations, both internal and external. Identification tools help to identify factors that retard effective NPD. These things include consumer complaints, procurement mandates, contract products, operations mandates or consumer mandates. Process tools are found by answering: who is best suited to manufacture? Why are they better? What processes are available? How will labor, overhead and resources be allocated? Will there be competitive advantages?

Tactical issues to consider include not forcing a fit between the product and the process. Tolerances must be established. The product experience is driven by the interaction of the formulation with the process. The product experience should be designed to fit the concept.

People tools can be determined by asking: who should be on the NPD team? Why should “A” be the project team leader? What skill sets are essential to maximize a successful team effort? How can checks and balances be built in? Will the team be able to stand up to management?

Effectiveness “vampires” are showing an unrealistic product, accepting an unrealistic request, operations mandates and personal influencing based on position. Indicators of ineffective NPD are situations in which everything is in a panic, and everything is “top priority.” Other red flags include projects that never end, a duplication of efforts (both internally and externally), slow decision-making and fast changes.
 “Tools for Effective NPD--People, Products and Processes,” Allan D. Samson, Ph.D., president, ESCA Enterprises Inc.,,
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Food Labeling Challenges

Today, the majority of food is prepackaged and presented to the consumer in a labeled container. Consumers are looking for information on nutrition, ease of preparation, proper handling and safety concerns with ingredients or additives. Safety or health to the average consumer is generally more of a perception than actual knowledge or scientific evidence. Consumer perceptions are influenced at national and international levels by economics, politics, events and the media.

Labeling challenges to the food processor are meeting the consumer’s demand for information; influencing the consumer to choose their product over the competition; and meeting all requirements of the food regulations, which is that the labels must be truthful and not misleading. This is not always an easy task.

Current challenges with ingredient statements are the labeling of natural flavors, natural products, organic items, allergens, claims and country of origin. Ingredient statements worldwide require that items be listed in the order of predominance, by common or usual name. The list must include all food additives, while somehow keeping the product from being duplicated.

To keep proprietary formulas under wraps, processors may utilize composite ingredient statements (with exemptions such as incidental additives), declare all spices as just “spice” and flavors as either “natural flavor” or “artificial flavor.”

In the U.S., consumers perceive “natural” products as better; therefore, processors want to label products “natural” to capture the growing market. The FDA does not object to using the term, as long as nothing artificial or synthetic is included in the food, and USDA adds “minimally processed” to their consideration. However, without a regulatory definition, it is “buyer beware.”

Regulated claims include health claims where a substance affects a disease or health-related condition. Nutrient content claims are also regulated. They describe the level of a nutrient or dietary substance in the product, using terms such as “free,” “high” and “low,” or they compare the level of a nutrient in a food to that of another food, using terms such as “more,” “reduced” or “lite.” Structure-function claims are allowed but must not be misleading. An example of such a claim is “calcium builds strong bones.” 

In summary, the label is the consumer’s best source of information on a product. Processors strive to meet the informed consumer’s increasing demand for information, while trying to gain a competitive edge. The regulatory process protects consumers by assuring truthful labels that are not misleading.
“Food Labeling Challenge,” Jean Theiss, regulatory director, Newly Weds Foods,, >
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor