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Eat This or Die

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Coffee, wine, beer and chocolate have long been considered vices, but recent studies reveal their health benefits: Coffee cuts skin cancer risk and lowers women’s depression; beer can help women protect against osteoporosis; and red wine and cocoa antioxidants could boost metabolism and benefit the heart, respectively.

Even so, consumers should have enough sense to not overindulge in traditionally unhealthy products. But, how do they react when a study reports health claims of nutrients without an existing bias?

The overly-trusting consumer may run out to buy every product with ginger in the ingredient list after reading that it reduces colon inflammation and cancer risk. Suddenly, CPG manufacturers of ginger-snaps have some decisions to make. Should they attempt to capitalize on these claims with front-of-packaging ingredient information?

Packaging claims have been a hot issue lately, as two camps of thought sparked a great debate. The Grocery Manufacturers Association’s (GMA) “Facts Up Front” rivals the Institute of Medicine (IoM) over what should be included in front-of-package nutritional facts.

IoM believes displaying calories and a simple star rating will sufficiently inform consumers of nutritional level, while the Facts Up Front Label will present calories, total fat, sodium, sugars, and two “nutrients to encourage” for the manufacturer to choose.

These systems ultimately have the same goal: help consumers make healthier choices. But striking a balance between information overload and ease of use is key.

Time Healthland featured a University of Minnesota study suggesting that people don’t actually look at the same nutrition information on food packages as they claim. Researchers used an eye-tracking device with a group of designated shoppers to reveal which components of nutrition labels participants paid attention.

“Although 26% of people self-reported that they almost always look at Nutrition Facts labels at the grocery store, 37% of them actually noticed at least one component of the label for almost all food items,” according to the article.

But, customers seem to be unaware of which components they actually noticed. There were large discrepancies between self-reports and eye-tracking data. While 33% said they looked at calorie count, only 9% actually did. In addition, 31% reported they paid attention to total fat content, 24% said they looked at sugar content, and 26% said they looked at serving size, when in reality, only 1% studied each of these components.

It will be interesting to see if this data changes when front-of-package nutrition facts become more prominent, as they’re expected to do in 2012. Will consumers trust only a standardized system, such as Facts Up Front or IoM’s, or can CPG manufacturers continue to play up key healthy ingredients in a less structured manner?  What’s your take?

Let’s Talk More About Innovation

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Thanks for the comments and viewpoints generated by my first post on innovation.

While change comes in many forms, we’ve identified five types of change that we believe spark innovation more often than others.  These include:

Societal change – as cultural norms shift, shoppers’ needs also evolve, creating an outstanding innovation opportunity.  The ongoing innovation in better-tasting and higher-quality prepared foods reflects the growing number of two-income households in America, for example.

Mass movements – the widespread growth in consumer interest for a particular cause often drives new innovation.  The explosion of sustainable products to combat global warming, burgeoning landfills and depleted oil stocks has sparked significant new innovation

Economic conditions – As the recent recession brutally illustrates, economic conditions are a powerful driver of innovation.  The continued and growing popularity of private label products is perhaps the strongest example of economics-driven innovation.

Demographics – The ongoing shift in the age, ethnic composition, geographic location and work patterns of shoppers drives innovation.  Consider cans with easy-to-open lids, catering to an older population more likely to suffer from arthritis.

Scientific advances – Advances in technology enable new forms of innovation.  Breakthroughs in packaging materials have given us microwavable trays and single material packaging.

Often two or more of these conditions occur simultaneously to push innovation even faster.   For example, mass interest in environmentally-benign packaging and scientific advances has resulted in the much wider availability of recycled boxes, cans, pouches and bottles.

As you are thinking about innovation, I’ve observed several ingredients that are part of every innovative company:

  • Ensure the R&D team is focusing efforts on fulfilling your organization’s long-term vision and mission, as well as its short-term tactical plans
  • Confirm that your organizational structure supports and nourishes innovation by removing hierarchies wherever possible and encouraging direct communication among internal and external resources for everything from product ideation to packaging
  • Develop cross-functional teams that include every discipline that will “touch” a new product
  • Think big.  Innovative companies are not built on line extensions

I know many of you will have thoughts and I look forward to reading and sharing these.

So, your brand’s on Facebook. Now what?

Monday, November 28th, 2011

With the increasing presence of social media and online promotions, marketing budgets are seeing a transfer of funds from traditional to digital. However, it is important for these funds to be spent strategically. Analytics can now help measure the impact of online marketing efforts to ensure marketing dollars are not being wasted.

Detailing this subject, our very own Phil Ripperger, vice president of New Media Solutions for SymphonyIRI, will be co-hosting “The Roadmap from Social Listening to Integrated Social Intelligence” webinar with Elizabeth Morgan, Visible Technology’s SVP of Business Development and Zach Hofer-Shall, Forrester Research analyst.

Elizabeth Morgan notes, “With today’s social commerce boom it’s even more critical to help businesses monitor and analyze the success of their social media efforts. During the webinar, I’ll discuss how businesses can use social media in conjunction with CRM efforts to ultimately add to their bottom line.”

As most companies which have employed social media strategies can attest, going beyond a collection of “likes” or followers is key, but can be complicated. A follower base is important, but how many actually act on their “like” and purchase your product? A high number of followers can reflect a positive brand perception, but for sales, the old adage “quality over quantity” rings true.

To address this challenge, SymphonyIRI’s New Media Solutions group identifies select “high opportunity” customers and their profiles, so retailers and manufacturers can connect with them on a more personal level and activate a sale. This is done by engaging customers in one-on-one dialogue and tailoring content that speaks to shoppers’ specific strategies, behaviors and needs.

Phil Ripperger adds, “SymphonyIRI works with media partners to build and optimize digital campaigns for CPG marketers. We then analyze data results from ‘test’ and ‘control’ groups to show the campaign’s impact on sales and its effect on competitors. The impact of buzz, whether positive or negative, can now be quantified, and used to measure campaign success or failure.”

Please sign up to join us on Thursday Dec. 1 at 12:30 p.m. CT for “The Roadmap from Social Listening to Integrated Social Intelligence” webinar.

EconoLink Gives Insights into Shopper Behaviors

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Recently, there has been much speculation about what shoppers are doing to cope during today’s bleak economic situation: Where are shoppers cutting back? Are they using coupons more? Are they finding deals online or with smartphone apps? To succeed in today’s market manufacturer and retailer decision makers don’t have the luxury of trial and error.

That said, we at SymphonyIRI are excited to offer a new segmentation solution to CPG and retailer marketers. EconoLink™, which we announced this week, profiles shoppers into six unique segments based on their outlook, behavior and personal financial attitudes.

With EconoLink, marketers gain the ability to develop highly-refined product, packaging, pricing, merchandising and promotion, and assortment and layout strategies, targeted specifically at one or more of these profiles.

To provide deep color and understanding around the dynamics of each of these segments, we classified more than 40,000 households on our panel. This gives our clients a very focused lens into the behavioral actions of U.S. shoppers and consumers and how they can be nimble and appeal to the needs of these unique populations.

The resulting data revealed some surprises.  Did you know that wealthier shoppers are among the most aggressive at “clipping” online coupons?  Each EconoLink profile outlines the segment’s habits and strategies about:

  • Information Search: Which shoppers find out about new products or promotions online, in-store, or from friends? Which research products before shopping?
  • Trip Planning: Are more shoppers likely to make lists to avoid impulse buys? Where do they get information to develop these lists? Do they bring coupons with them to stores?
  • Store Selection: Which shoppers are channel shifting to secure the lowest price? Do higher gas prices make store proximity a priority?
  • In-Store Influences: How does store layout affect purchase decisions? Will shoppers even venture down tempting aisles? How do they respond to signs, displays and kiosks?
  • Brand Choice: What role do merchandising and promotion play? Are shoppers maintaining brand loyalties because of trust and comfort with a brand?  Are they willing to shop a different channel to find favorite brands?  Are they more price sensitive? Are they likely to switch to private label?
  • Product Usage: Are shoppers purchasing more multi-purpose products? Do they try to extend the life of products? Do they share more products across family members?

Clearly, shoppers are thinking more about their purchase decisions, and marketers, in turn, must ensure that every facet of how the product is presented meets with a given shopper profile’s needs. With EconoLink, retailers and manufacturers will be able to tap into the shoppers’ mindset and cater to his or her needs. Improving each profile’s shopping experience with new marketing programs will make them feel more at home in your store, and maybe even change some of their shopping habits in your favor.

Petco Collaborates with SymphonyIRI to Join CPG Industry’s Information Sharing Model

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Petco Collaborates with SymphonyIRI to Join CPG Industry’s Information Sharing Model
Emil Martinez

Here at SymphonyIRI our goal is to provide the industry’s leading insights to help our manufacturer and retailer clients better address their business needs.  Today, we announced our collaboration with leading pet specialty retailer, Petco, to share CPG market information that will help both of our organizations obtain deeper level insights in the marketplace and with Petco shoppers.

What does this mean exactly?  It means that Petco is now the first pet specialty retailer to provide us with census-level data from all of their stores, further enhancing our existing market information model that already covers the majority of food, drug, mass (excluding Walmart), convenience and dollar retailers.  Additionally, unique to this collaboration, Petco will also leverage our RetailAdvantage™ solution and have access to our POS data to help its associates gain a better understanding of its shoppers.

This is a very exciting time for our business as this collaboration expands on our coverage in specialty and emerging channels while also providing manufacturers the best information available to succeed in this space.

For more information please contact Tim Hadaway: Tim.Hadaway@SymphonyIrI.com.

Survey Says: Frugality is Here for the Long Haul

Friday, November 18th, 2011

With the country still feeling the aftershocks of the recession, many consumers today have held on to their frugal practices.  In fact, in our newly released Times & Trends Special Report: The Downturn Shopper: Buckled in for a Wild and Crazy Ride,” we detail how many of these shoppers have embraced money-saving strategies with new fervor.  Additionally, they continue to hone household and grocery rituals in ways that help them manage expenses.

This Times & Trends Special Report, based on results from our third quarter MarketPulse survey, finds that consumers continue to trim back eating out behaviors and instead are cooking simple meals at home.  The survey also reaffirms that the Internet is a popular resource for consumers seeking the best deals.  With nearly one in four consumers finding it difficult to afford weekly groceries, clicking for savings is just one of the tools consumers are using to carefully plan their CPG excursions before entering the retail marketplace.

A summary of additional insights and retailer/manufacturer recommendations to address today’s conservative shopping mindset can be found in the press release on this report.

More details regarding this report are included in a recording of our Times & Trends Webinar.  Topics discussed include, “How can CPG and retail marketers adjust their strategies to appeal to today’s very conservative and risk-averse ‘Downturn Shoppers’ in order to improve sales, share and loyalty?

Please click here to watch the recording and download a PDF of the presentation.

Igniting Innovation

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Everyday, we have conversations with our clients about innovation.  Everyone wants to be innovative, but what exactly is an innovative product or solution?  How does innovation translate to the less-sexy, but critical question of sales and market share uplift?   How do product managers include innovation into the value proposition?  These are just a few of the dozens of innovation-related questions we hear.

I would like to start an ongoing dialogue about innovation and invite you to participate.

We discuss the definition of innovation quite a bit, and it seems that every person we ask has a unique view.  However, three attributes that seem to consistently be part of innovation include:

  • Innovation creates a new value proposition that addresses a specific need
  • Innovation differentiates a product from its competitive set
  • Innovation includes solutions not previously introduced to a market

Ignite

One analogy that I’ve liked is thinking of innovation as essential to a brand the way oxygen is essential to fire.  Successful innovation ignites a brand, while unsuccessful innovation can extinguish it.  Also, successful innovation can create a halo effect that can generate new interest in other brands within a portfolio.

While every company handles innovation differently, I’ve seen a few common steps that act as useful starting points.

  • Ask and answer a series of basic but critical questions: What are we trying to accomplish? Are we trying to develop new products or services?  Create a value product from a premium one? Grow into new geographies?
  • And then ask some more questions:  Will our new idea attract new customers?  Will it take cost out of our product?  Will it change dynamics of the category?
  • Once you have answered these and other questions, identify an approach to quickly test/validate the idea, such as creating a fast prototype to quickly determine if an idea is viable, accomplishes our goals and successfully answers the questions posed.

How do you handle innovation?  Thank you for your interest and I look forward to hearing from you.

Petco Collaborates with SymphonyIRI to Join CPG Industry’s Information Sharing Model

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Here at SymphonyIRI our goal is to provide the industry’s leading insights to help our manufacturer and retailer clients better address their business needs.  Today, we announced our collaboration with leading pet specialty retailer, Petco, to share CPG market information that will help both of our organizations obtain deeper level insights in the marketplace and with Petco shoppers.

What does this mean exactly?  It means that Petco is now the first pet specialty retailer to provide us with census-level data from all of their stores, further enhancing our existing market information model that already covers the majority of food, drug, mass (excluding Walmart), convenience and dollar retailers.  Additionally, unique to this collaboration, Petco will also leverage our RetailAdvantage™ solution and have access to our POS data to help its associates gain a better understanding of its shoppers.

This is a very exciting time for our business as this collaboration expands on our coverage in specialty and emerging channels while also providing manufacturers the best information available to succeed in this space.

For more information please contact Tim Hadaway: Tim.Hadaway@SymphonyIrI.com.

Why is My Packaging Green?

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Everywhere we look there is a huge shift to all things “green.” Whether it is green homes, green cars or greener day-to-day practices, the “live green” mentality is here to stay. This eco-friendly trend has also spread to the CPG industry with the introduction of sustainable packaging. And, while it is obviously a positive shift to transform our current practices to become more environmentally sound, is sustainable packaging truly sustainable?

The most recent trend in sustainable CPG packaging is to use compostable materials that look and act as a plastic but are made from sugar cane waste or corn oil. Because the packaging is derived from natural materials, it can be placed in compost recycle bins or  home compost piles. While this seems like a wonderful idea on the surface because these are natural materials versus plastic, are we now growing crops strictly for packaging? And, if so, is that a problem?

The ability to eliminate the creation of plastic and replace plastic use by natural materials is a huge step in the right direction. Even if crops are being grown for the sole purpose of replacing plastic, the ability to eliminate the need to produce an unnatural material creates a closed loop circle where a product is completely sustainable on its own (i.e. growing corn to make corn oil to create biodegradable/compostable replacement plastic materials only to compost them and start the process over).

If CPG manufacturers can piggy-back on this emerging trend and package products in compostable, green packaging, this can be used as a competitive advantage since today, many consumers are extremely environmentally conscious of what they purchase.

Many shoppers purchase soaps containing no phosphates or entire household cleaning product lines that contain all natural ingredients. For a manufacturer to have products packaged in compostable materials would open the doors to a growing population of eco-consumers while being an environmentally kind company.

As the green movement continues, it’s safe to say we will also see a significant green shift within the CPG industry. The ability to use green materials for packaging and offer those products to the masses can be beneficial for consumers and manufacturers alike, especially in a time when people are hyper-conscious about the sustainability of the products they purchase.

Ready…get set…SHOP!

Monday, October 31st, 2011

With Halloween upon us, shoppers have already started their holiday preparations. If you are a retailer or manufacturer, you must also be prepared for the onslaught of shoppers looking to buy more for less this year.

As we talked with numbers of retailers across the country, we’ve heard from many about their number one concern this holiday shopping season: When will shoppers open up their wallets? With anxiety and anticipation setting in, we are seeing the re-emergence of layaway and discounting programs as retailers do everything they can to bring shoppers in stores.

Believe it or not, shoppers are in more control than ever before. This means retailers and manufacturers must keep in mind the purchasing strategies shoppers will employ this holiday season in order to be successful:

  • Keyboards will be burning up as shoppers search for deals.
    Tip:
    Ensure that whatever promotions you offer as a manufacturer are fully linked at the retailer level, such as through Web sites and the consumer shopping level (i.e. groupon, etc.)
  • Play to the shoppers’ regimen and rituals.
    Tip:
    When promoting, understand regimens and rituals, such as how weekends are primary baking days for consumers. Understand that warm soothing meals for kids are important during this time of year and that entertaining becomes a critical part of family celebration which we expect to grow this year.
  • Don’t over promote.
    Tip:
    61 percent of Americans are survivalists, so many can’t stock-up and buy three of something. Ensure that you are tuning your promotions to your audience.
  • Provide interesting and exciting uses of your products.
    Tip:
    Bring flavor, meal and ethnic innovations to market in your recipes during this holiday season.
  • Ensure you’re executing well at retail.
    Tip:
    During this holiday season, it’s all about shopper expectations of being able to buy products when they want to buy it. “Out of Stock” is big a no-no.
  • Consider bundling.
    Tip:
    Bundle not only meal options, but dessert and snacking. Experiment with shoppers to delight them and not just sell them products.
  • Store brands will be on shopping lists.
    Tip:
    Expect store brands to be part of meal components and position products accordingly with value based offerings and not just price.
  • The choices are simple. Retailers and manufacturers must either understand what will meet the needs of this year’s holiday shopper or have a lackluster holiday season.