You know you need to come up with new product ideas to stay ahead of your competition, but innovating isn’t easy.
For large CPGs, the pressure to fight back against legacy competitors and fresh new brands to maintain market share makes new product ideation all the more important — and difficult.
Not to mention that consumers have higher expectations than ever before when it comes to the food and beverage industry. Smart innovation is non-negotiable because innovation in and of itself just isn’t enough.
Unfortunately, there’s no prescribed method that magically yields new product ideas. But you wouldn’t be reading this if there were, right? What we do have are four tactics to get you out of the weeds of your brand and into the minds of consumers to reveal your next smash-hit product.
1. Leverage AI-Driven Insights and Social Listening to Quickly Inform Consumer-Centric Ideas
A direct connection to the consumer is key to remaining relevant in the food and beverage industry. You can’t create successful new products if you have no idea what matters to the people who buy your existing stuff.
Lucky for you, connecting with consumers also illuminates opportunities to expand your brand. How? Gathering unfiltered, unprovoked consumer commentary about how your audience is interacting with your products’ ecosystem — competing products, your category, etc. — reveals white space. It shows what’s not there that should be. Or what your competitors are doing that you’re missing out on.
Today’s AI-driven technology makes collecting this consumer commentary easier than ever, and insights that were once lost in pages of raw data are able to rise to the top — ripe for your picking.
Social Listening Plucks Product Ideas Directly from Consumers
You can take advantage of platforms that aggregate millions of mentions across digital touchpoints like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even blogs. That’s social listening.
Maybe you’re Stonyfield and there’s a passionfruit craze on Twitter. You’re now empowered to react to that trend with a new yogurt flavor. And remember, the best part of social listening is that it’s all completely unbiased, unsolicited feedback. Unlike traditional research, which relies on asking consumers leading questions, social listening allows you to be a fly on the wall. Observe and analyze your aggregated data to create consumer-directed products.
AI Tech Opens Endless Research Possibilities
It goes further than social listening, too. In general, AI and machine learning can identify patterns in data to predict personality types, consumer desires, purchase decision drivers, consumer concerns, and more.
You can understand so much about your consumers in a way that goes beyond big data to the emotional nuances driving modern buyers today. And of course, all of this information is a treasure trove of potential products.
Oh, and did we mention that AI-driven solutions are generally cheaper and faster than traditional research?
2. Analyze Target Demographics for Group-Specific Product Ideas
Here’s a seemingly old-school method that could result in your next big idea: Demographic research. Analyzing your target audiences based on groupings can reveal larger trends and preferences for that whole group.
When we say target demographics, we don’t mean “left-handed people in Chicago.” Don’t lump potential customers together ad-hoc. Instead, consider demographics with buying power and strong commonalities — something like millennial moms. Most importantly, research desirable demographics for your brand.
Gain an understanding of that demographics’ behaviors (back to AI-driven insights and social listening) and isolate opportunities for new products addressing that group’s unique traits.
3. Conduct Audits to Expose Your Competitors’ Blindspots — and Your Next Product
When you work for a large CPG, it’s easy to become siloed in your thinking and consumed by your own brand. But fresh ideas flow when you think outside the box.
Try cycling through adjacent category and brand packaging audits to bring original product ideas to light. Believe it or not, you’ll likely learn something new each time you go through these processes, no matter how well you know (or think you know) the industry.
Adjacent Category Audits
Coffee vs. tea, wine vs. beer, cottage cheese vs. yogurt — you get the idea.
Analyze the food and bev categories closely related to yours (similar composition, usage pattern, etc.) by conducting an adjacent category audit. Maybe the tea folks are touting a benefit currently untapped by your coffee competitors. Cue your new idea.
See how easily an adjacent category audit could inspire your next big thing?
Brand Packaging Audits
You’re probably well-versed in brand packaging audits. You identify all of your immediate and indirect competitors so you can compare and contrast the marketing aspects of their packaging.
You can review:
- Visual language
- Packaging claims
- Brand voice
- Tagline and messaging
Here’s the kicker. Simply understanding what your competition is — and isn’t — saying via their packaging can spark a new idea for your brand.
4. Consider Alternative Packaging Options to Elevate Your Look
Have you noticed how many breakthrough products are just existing items in newfangled packaging?
Pureed baby food has been around for decades. Throw it in a plastic pouch and it’s suddenly innovative. Not for nothing, but those pint-sized food pouches are crushing the baby food scene — who has time to unscrew tiny glass jars, anyway?
This tactic might seem dowdy next to AI-driven tech. But taking a second to consider how you can deliver the same benefit in a new and exciting way has major upsides. Namely, you might not have to create a new product formula, just an eye-catching vehicle for your existing food or beverage product.
Putting it All Together
At the end of the day, it all boils down to white space. Each of these tactics digs up some sort of gap that you can swoop in to fill with your next knockout product.
And remember: Even if you’re already engaged in social listening or accustomed to brand packaging audits, it only takes one tactic one time to inspire innovation. Mix things up with these four options.