Case Study

In-Home Usage Product Test for a Frozen Food Brand


A retail food brand in a declining category was seeing its margins squeezed and decided to cut costs through value engineering (making products with cost-saving ingredients). 

Worried about alienating current customers, the company partnered with C+R to conduct a product taste test for their frozen pie varieties.


Cutting Costs Without Alienating Customers

With squeezed margins, a retail food brand decided to cut costs through value engineering.

Eager to determine whether they could save money by adjusting the formula for one of their frozen pie varieties without alienating current customers, they partnered with C+R Research. The client wanted assurance that the new cost-reduced product would perform as well as or better than the current line. They also wanted C+R’s help identifying product optimization opportunities.


Comparing Pies – An In-Home Usage Test

C+R used an in-home usage test (IHUT) among frozen pie users. Respondents were pre-recruited online, and each respondent ate one pie in a branded monadic study design. Respondents were split into two cells; half evaluated the new cost-reduced pie, and half evaluated the current pie. 

Since the prototype was a frozen product, C+R’s Logistics Director worked with our packing partner to pack (including dry ice), label, and ship the product. Each pie was shipped with a product code label and nutritional information attached. We also developed and included thawing instructions and a usage diary for respondents to fill out as they tasted the pie. For extra precaution, we affixed temperature testing stickers that visually showed respondents if the pie maintained the proper level of frozenness during shipping. 

During the in-home usage period, respondents were sent an online quantitative follow-up survey to provide their feedback, capturing overall appeal, purchase intent, expectations, and perceptions of the product. The survey also included detailed questions about appearance, aroma, taste, and texture along with usage behavior and preparation methods. 

The result

The Pursuit Continues

After comparing the results of the test pie to the current pie, C+R’s Advanced Analytics team performed a unique bootstrapping resampling analysis to confirm the results. The resampling approach revealed systematic risk that would not have been easy to detect using standard statistical tests – in this case, most of the time the two products were at parity; those when not at parity, respondents favored the current pie. Therefore, we concluded that the test pie wasn’t a perfect replacement, but it also wasn’t too far off the mark.

The prototype’s performance among heavy frozen pie users was encouraging, though the data suggested that the test pie didn’t satisfy all consumers as well as the current pie, and there was clear evidence of a less-favorable perception of the new formulation’s crust and toppings.

If our client’s goal was to introduce a cost-reduced pie with zero risk of consumer dissatisfaction, then this formulation did not meet that standard. However, if the cost savings would be substantial, and the brand could afford to lose some sales among lighter category users, then the math could work out in their favor.

In the end, equipped with all the data, and our recommendations, the client decided there was more work to do before moving forward with the value engineered pie. 

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