As food product developers design new offerings, they have traditionally looked at things like consumer age, income level, demographic information and where they live.
And while these data points capture many important things, they miss one very important aspect, said Eric Spenske, Givaudan's North American vice president of marketing for Taste & Wellbeing: How consumers think about food. And, considering about 80% of new food and beverage products fail, according to Nielsen statistics shared by Givaudan, this could be an important dimension to consider.
Spenske said the product failure rate has stayed about the same in his more than three decades in the food business, which he finds difficult to believe considering all of the data collected today.
"We're on this relentless pursuit of finding ways to better inform our customers to make sure that the products that they're putting on the market from a flavor perspective resonate and meet the concept that brand is trying to make," Spenske said.
Givaudan's new FlavorFinders platform aims to eliminate that gap. Built over a decade from a variety of consumer studies in conjunction with market intelligence firm Bellomy, FlavorFinders zeroes in on the kinds of tastes and flavors consumers are interested in based on individual tasting profiles. This platform can help a product developer hone in on the particular flavors target consumers will want. It could prevent a risky high-profile launch most aren't willing to try, as well as boost confidence in a new flavor combination that will attract a larger segment of eaters.
This system is highly detailed and very different from other consumer research, Spenske said.
"We were able to produce something that can layer on top of a current brand segmentation strategy that does the demographic and psychographic characteristics," he said, "... and really start to talk about, 'OK, well, what's your flavor strategy? What do you want to accomplish? What kinds of consumer archetypes do you want to attract with the flavor choices that you're making?'
"It gives those brands an opportunity to be very mainstream, you might say, or to go after some volume if they don't already have products that meet those needs ... to maybe try to improve its innovation chops ... or to try to be more leading edge or trendy," Spenske said.
The FlavorFinders system identifies four distinct consumer groups: hesitators, followers, investigators and trailblazers. Hesitators are the least willing to try something new and are very slow to take risks. Followers are generally willing to try something new, as long as it is either very trendy or a variation on something they already like. Investigators are generally willing to take risks, though they tend to have high standards and gravitate toward claims such as locally sourced or antibiotic-free. And trailblazers are influencers and leaders among their peers who tend to dive into new and different flavors and tell others about them.
Spenske said FlavorFinders is useful at the beginning of the development cycle to help manufacturers create a product that will resonate with the right consumers.
A white paper from Givaudan highlighted some examples of how FlavorFinders could help a company make the right decisons. A snack company already popular with hesitators wanted to make a limited-time flavor. While sauerkraut would be unlikely to get much consumer attention because it's a little more risky, a sour pickle flavor is a lot more in the brand's fans' comfort zone. And using other data for consumer behavior segmentation, a coffee company could design an Instagrammable coffee flavor targeted squarely at trailblazers in hopes of sparking the next big trend.
Spenske said Givaudan hopes to use FlavorFinders to enhance customers' ideas and long-term flavor strategies. It isn't a system to pull different flavor ideas from out of thin air. But if a customer decides it wants a strawberry-flavored product, FlavorFinders can help develop the nuance of the flavor before the actual product development. Spenske simulated the type of conversation he might have with a client.
"For instance, if they're going to go after investigators, we might say, 'Well, hey, we've got this strawberry that's got a really nice story behind it. It's a unique varietal, and it comes from here, and we can give you that label.' ... So you go after that consumer."