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How does a European-based food manufacturer with a track record for innovating new products break into the US market, especially when their product may seem a bit foreign to US consumers?

A European-based food manufacturer approached us to help evaluate and optimize its new product offering designed for US consumers, with the goal of successfully introducing a new sector within the bread category.

Problem

Our client was a fresh-prepared foods manufacturer who, while well-known in Europe, had only newly arrived in the US market. They were seeking to create a new sector within the bread category by developing a new chilled bread proposition. 

Although they were uniquely situated to become a market leader with this proposition, our client lacked familiarity with US consumers’ attitudes + behaviors towards the bread category, and an understanding of the best way to effectively position its new product in this new market.  Our challenge was to ground our client in the bread market landscape in the US, while also uncovering opportunities and considerations for their chilled bread product offering.

Result

Our initial quantitative and iterative qualitative approach provided our client with actionable insights throughout the project, which allowed for a richer understanding of US consumers’ needs and expectations regarding their new product, and the bread category overall. This included identifying the most appealing and relevant product formats, tastes and flavors, product packaging (i.e. branding, design, product name and messaging) and the most appropriate in-store location.  

Upon completion of the project, we also produced a video sizzle reel, which included highlights from the consumer focus groups, to help sell-in the product to grocery retailers. 

The first product phase was launched in select grocery retailers in October 2018.

Solution

First, to provide our client with an understanding of the bread category as a whole—and the chilled bread segment in particular—we leveraged our partnership with Numerator (previously InfoScout). Using their receipt-based consumer shopping behavior data, we were able to provide our client with insight into the purchasing behaviors of US consumers across all retailers with respect to the bread category and its various segments. 

Grounded by this insight, we set about testing US consumers’ reactions to our client’s new product offering - a chilled flatbread product. While not our original plan, we ended up completing a four-step, iterative qualitative study. For our first step, we conducted focus groups in three major markets among bread purchasers to understand consumers’ receptiveness to the client’s chilled bread product concept. While the product’s taste was favorable, its perceived limited use occasions, “less than fresh” packaging and intended in-store location negatively impacted the product’s overall appeal and acceptance among consumers. Specifically, the idea of a refrigerated bread is not as intuitive for US consumers as it is with European consumers. Coupled with the chilled location that the bread would be found in the store, the product’s packaging made the product feel mass produced and “not fresh.”    

Our client went to work to revise the product concept based on this feedback.  And 6-weeks later we were back in the field, testing a broader range of product formats and flavors and new branding and packaging designs. Through this round of focus groups, we were able to identify three product formats with multiple perceived usage occasions and three flavors that “wowed” consumers. Additionally, the products’ branding, product name, and packaging design did a good job of communicating the product as artisan and high-quality – something that consumers would expect to find in an in-store bakery. However, the research also confirmed a learning from the first round of research - although the client considered its product flatbread, its unique shape, and texture did not signal ‘flatbread’ to consumers. 

To address this challenge, we led a half-day product naming workshop at C+R’s offices. We invited our clients, some especially creative C+R employees, and consumers, and our client team to participate. Through multiple creative activities, we were able to generate a list of several “basket worthy” product names and packaging messages and took two back to consumers during our final round of focus groups. 

We used our final round of focus groups with consumers to validate and refine the client’s final product, package and messaging prior to their launch. This involved:

  • Confirming the product formats, tastes, and flavors that would garner the most perceived use and occasions 
  • Evaluating and identifying the product name, package design and message that best communicated the fresh, in-store bakery feel, which the client desired 
  • Evaluating an improved chilled location within the bakery and deli area

Upon completion of the project, we also produced a video sizzle reel, which included highlights from the consumer focus groups, to help sell-in the product to grocery retailers.