- Taste, price and health are the top three reasons consumers will try a new product with 78% ranking taste as the No. 1 most important attribute of a product followed by price (61%) and health (55%), according to a new study from Kearney that was sent to Food Dive.
- Conversely, price (69%), health (55%) and availability (40%) are the top deciding factors for consumers not trying new food trends. Although consumers are generally “overwhelmingly” willing to try new products with 88% of respondents reporting that they try at least one new food trend per year, the pandemic has put a damper on experimentation with 71% of consumers trying fewer food trends since the pandemic hit.
- Innovation has taken on new meaning not just for consumers but for manufacturers during the pandemic. Despite the difficulties of operating with limited access to test kitchens and office space, innovation is continuing full steam ahead with funds that are invested in innovation generally accelerating since the pandemic began.
This report is yet another indication that when it comes to consumer purchasing decisions, taste remains king. However, taste has taken on a new identity during these past few months as innovation went on hold this spring as shoppers turned to familiar products in droves.
Rather than cutting-edge products that push the boundaries of what consumers are familiar with, many companies have taken a cue from this mass return to basics and prioritized reimagining familiar brands with offerings that cater to consumers that are concerned with safety and are spending a significantly larger proportion of their time eating at home. Cleaner labels and expansions of lines that shoppers already recognize are some major ways that innovation has manifested in recent months.
"The pandemic is a reset button for how and what types of innovation will be necessary for the post-pandemic world. Innovation will continue on a whole plane to influence how food is grown, processed, stored, distributed and procured," Kantha Shelke, food scientist and principal at consulting firm Corvus Blue, told Food Dive in July.
In the months since summer, innovation has picked up steam, with companies looking to consumers for an indication of what needs to come to shelves next. According to research done by Mattson, two-thirds of industry executives said this spring they were working on new concepts, and 65% were working on new products. The same survey found that 58% of consumers said they will be immediately ready to buy new products when they come out, pointing to likely pent up demand to try more things.
Companies also expect consumers to weigh innovative flavors with items that provide a good value. The Mattson finding aligns with the Kearney study, further supporting the assumption that the economic ramifications of COVID-19 will deeply affect the landscape of food and beverage.
While price is limiting consumers in some respects from engaging in emerging trends — 55% of those surveyed by Kearney said they are not willing to pay a premium for new food trends — brands still have other opportunities to make smaller changes to recognizable brands, which can do more for sales growth than inventing a new product or concept that consumers aren't yet ready to embrace.
Early in the outbreak, Conagra noticed consumers were looking for recipes that helped boost their immune system and were high in vitamins. Rather than launch a product just to cater to this demand, the company's e-commerce team tweaked how products were described so its Birds Eye offerings showed up on e-commerce sites when shoppers searched for these product attributes. Campbell capitalized on the prolonged period of strong demand for bread products by rolling out its new Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Honey White Bread and Farmhouse Butter Buns.
Manufacturers could look at refreshing familiar legacy brands that are currently experiencing a resurgence with consumers. As the Kearney study found that 77% of consumers are loyal to brands that they consume, taking an approach that uses the popularity of already-existing brands is likely to draw in consumers by offering fresh selections that are based on a line whose taste and price point consumers already know and love.