Specialty Food Magazine

Spring 2018

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Emily Crowe is a freelance writer based in Ohio and regular contributor to Specialty Food Magazine. 1. Identify Your Objective, Understand Your Customer At the beginning of the innovation process, companies should consider what their objective is in rolling out new products. This often starts with the customer, Stuckey says. "Do they think that they can sell new products to their existing consumer or is the objective to develop a line of products that appeals to a new consumer?" she notes. A company that sells ingredients to home cooks, for example, might find that they could sell to a larger group of consumers if they produced value-added finished products that help get food to the table quicker on busy weekdays. In this case, Stuckey says, a whole new consumer would need to be considered. Marc Halperin, culinary director at food and beverage inno- vation agency CCD Innovation in Emeryville, Calif., agrees that gaining a clear understanding of what your ideal customer wants is paramount. "Once you understand the consumer, it's then up to the people doing the innovating to try to figure out what a product would look like that would satisfy all the needs this consumer has." Indeed, innovation should always be focused on providing value to the customer, says Jeff Grogg, founder and managing director of JPG Resources, a food business builder in Battle Creek, Mich. It's important to figure out how your product will give a consumer what they want and ensure that they fully understand its value proposition. 2. Check in with Trends To get a better idea of the types of products your ideal consumer is most interested in, Stuckey recommends visiting restaurants, cafes, retailers, co-ops, and local grocery store chains that tend to be more progressive in their buying. In-store delis and bakeries can also give a good view of what's trending, and Halperin points to chefs as a great source of inspiration when it comes to trendsetting, innovative product ideas. While taking stock of trends is important, Stuckey advises against chasing trends that have already flattened out. "The good way to look for trends is to look at past industry data, but you should remember that when you're looking at published, syndi- cated data, you're looking in the rear-view mirror," she says. 3. Brainstorm Dedicated ideation is a key step in any innovation process. Whether that entails getting a group of people together to throw ideas up on the wall or sitting in a quiet room and contemplating what your company's ideal product looks like, ideation should help lead to concepts that can be further discussed and possibly developed. "What we're known for is the ability to take the results of all those inputs and to synthesize those to arrive at the product line concepts that have the biggest breadth and appeal for what the objective would be," Stuckey explains. Similarly, companies can take those ideas and drill down on the ones that hold the most promise in terms of what consumers want and what the business can successfully manufacture. 4. Get a Handle on the Business Side While you may think you've figured out the perfect new product, it's important to remember that there needs to be a business angle to every idea, Grogg explains. "A lot of innovation we see is people writing down big ideas that lack any context of reality," he says. "Successful innovation isn't just having great ideas, it's actually having actionable ideas that can succeed in real life." Along the way, it's important to consider how these innova- tive ideas can become products in a cost-effective way, as well as what type of manufacturing solution you can use, where you will buy ingredients and get packaging, and how you can get the type of shelf life you need to make safe, effective products. Figuring out answers to these issues, and many more, at the beginning of the process allows you to design for an actionable outcome, Grogg says. Additionally, Stuckey recommends taking stock of available resources when considering what types of new products your busi- ness can handle. What are some of the manufacturing assets that the company has access to? Does your co-packer have any capabili- ties that you can leverage? 5. Accept That It's Alright to Go Small While cooking up the next big product might seem like the ulti- mate goal, that doesn't necessarily have to be the case. "There's a lot to be said for taking that one smart step that people want and making it approachable," Grogg says. By his estimation, innova- tion can be as simple as making products that people eat every day incrementally better with minimal tradeoffs in terms of expense and taste. "You don't always have to be revolutionary," he muses. @ specialtyfood.com To learn more about Product Development, sign up for the Specialty Food Association's Business Summit, in Dallas, April 8–10. Visit specialtyfood.com/sfbs article bug SPRING 2018 69

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