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Interest in non-dairy versions of common dairy products such as milk and cheese has expanded in recent years as consumers look for ways to eat better and live healthier lives. This change in behavior has spurred innovation as brands, including those who traditionally have focused on dairy-based products, expand to reach these consumers.

Our client, a well-known cheese manufacturer, sought C+R’s help in getting to know these non-dairy consumers, including vegans, flexitarians, and those seeking to reduce the amount of dairy consumed. The client team needed a way to quickly reach non-dairy consumers in order to determine their opinions and usage of key brands and their products.

We created a pre-recruited online community of non-dairy users and assisted our client in conducting several rounds of in-home usage tests (IHUTs). As a result, our client had a ready-made group of consumers with which to test new product ideas and to obtain a quick pulse on the overall feelings and needs of these consumers. 

Problem

Our client, a cheese manufacturer, was interested in launching a new plant-based dairy brand and needed to quickly understand consumers’ interest and their attitudes surrounding these types of products. Specifically, they wanted feedback from consumers who had decreased or eliminated their use of dairy, including vegans, flexitarians, and dairy reducers. The client team had attempted to conduct this research on their own in the past; however, this consumer target had proven difficult to reach. Therefore, they approached C+R for help.

Via the research, our client hoped to:

  • Understand motivations, attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions when it comes to the non-dairy and vegan food space (including brands playing a role in the space)
  • Identify unmet needs/desires related to products in the non-dairy/vegan food space
  • Identify ideas for potential products among non-dairy and vegan consumers, and 
  • Dig deep into consumers’ mindsets to inform current and emerging initiatives

Additionally, the team wanted the ability to compare across key consumer types, specifically dairy reducers to vegans to better understand differing (or similar) points of view.

Result

As a result of the research program, the client team bolstered insights surrounding this hard-to-reach target and developed a new brand and series of product offerings. Through open, ongoing connections with consumers, the client team was exposed to consumer needs and mindsets quickly as they arose. Additionally, the ability to test products quickly and easily through the IHUT format allowed for back-and-forth rounds across formulas, ultimately validating key recipes.

Solution

To help our client answer their important questions, we created an online community with 500 hard-to-reach non-dairy users, including a mix of vegans, flexitarians, and dairy reducers. The non-dairy users included in the community were 18+ years old and included a mix of males and females. All were willing to participate in a year-long community and complete 2-3 studies per month. 

Early in the community’s existence, these target consumers were leveraged to evaluate, optimize, and validate potential branding for the client’s new plant-based cheese offering. All branding elements, including name and design were created and tested using this community. 

During the life of the community, research included five quick and cost-efficient IHUTs. C+R safely shipped refrigerated products to participants, who successfully evaluated 2-5 products using immersive qualitative and media tools in the community platform.

Iterative IHUTs were also employed. Leveraging earlier findings, the client team was able to re-formulate its products for up to three rounds of testing per product. This quickly led to an optimized plant-based cheese product that appealed to the greatest number of target consumers.

C+R set up an engaging community to fit the target’s unique mindset and to build on the social glue that united them as consumers. In order to capture thoughts across the various aspects and phases, a variety of methods were used, including surveys, polls, journal entries and video testimonials, etc. To maintain participant attention throughout, various topics were leveraged to build engagement – a member-generated section, diverse forum discussions and monthly member spotlights.

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