Rants & Raves
February 1, 2024
Introducing New Products. Penetrating New Markets.

Trends can be short lived, a passing fancy, and rarely amount to much of anything other than colorful and intriguing talking points and interesting reading.


The story posted last month featured the latest trends in the culinary world, highlighting ingredients, flavors and preferences that have been touted as the next great thing. Based on these reports, it will be interesting to see if amba, hojicha, nepitella, scamorza or sunomono, all foods considered trend-worthy, find their way onto menus at any of the restaurants we frequent or, going one step further, into our home pantries.

What I find most important, especially when assisting with new product development, is not whether products are trend worthy, but whether they're relevant and appealing. I want to know exactly what's important to our audience in each of the markets we're entering - what they need - what they want - and what they crave - then develop products that respond effectively to each of these issues.

When looking at U.S. markets, it's clear that consumers are looking for foods that taste good, align with healthy lifestyles, offer some degree of convenience (i.e., single serve, resealable, easy to use) and provide experiences that are undeniably new and different. Of course, these variables may change depending on the point of sale (i.e., restaurant, supermarket, ethnic, specialty food, big box, or convenience store). What's important is to find a way to add value through evolutionary product formulation or the creation of something altogether new that disrupts the marketplace.

In terms of product evolution, companies including Divina, Saffron Road, Stonewall Kitchen and Siete are just a few that have found ways to successfully add value and penetrate markets by utilizing high-integrity ingredients, developing undeniably appealing formulations, embracing concerns for health and wellness and engineering sustainable packaging that is easy to use, communicates value and appeals to the senses. Disruptors such as Pom Wonderful (fruit juice), Califia Farms (plant-based milks) and Chobani (Greek yogurt) have radically changed the competitive landscape in their respective categories.

For international producers looking to penetrate new markets, their point of origin and ethnic heritage, coupled with flawless product formulations, could provide just the right attributes to offset competitive threats, cut through the clutter and win over new audiences eager for something new and different. If, however, the ethnic specialty is relatively unknown, trade and consumer education becomes a priority and could take a long time before brand or product loyalty is established.

While there are countless opportunities for new product development, a few of the more obvious include:
-   Exotic and intriguing point of origin
-   Single origin flavors / blends
-   Updated ethnic flavors, blends (mashups)
-   Better-for-you formulations
-   Bolder, spicier flavors
-   Application specific - condiments, cooking sauces, spice rubs, etc.
-   Functional packaging - reusable, convenient

No matter which direction you take, it's important to recognize the amount of time and degree of risk associated with new product introductions. With the right amount of research, planning and determination, you'll have a solid foundation from which to grow and thrive.

Jeffrey Spear has been working with a global community of food producers and foodservice operators for more than 40 years, supporting new product introductions and brand growth through insightful research, well-conceived marketing strategies and creatively inspired designs. He is also an accomplished food writer, formulating recipes, publishing cookbooks and developing editorial content for a variety of trade and consumer publications. If you're looking to enhance the impact of your culinary brand, introduce a new product or simply need someone to tell your story in ways that are visually and emotionally appealing, give Jeff a call: 866 787 8761 - or shoot him an email: jeff@studiospear.com