The votes are in: Brands give consumers a voice in product flavor decisions
- Manufacturers are engaging consumers in product development decisions by letting them vote on their favorite flavor varieties that they can later buy in stores.
- Mars announced Monday that Coffee Nut will be the new flavor variety for peanut M&M's after receiving the most consumer votes, beating out competitors Honey Nut and Chili Nut. The new flavor will hit store shelves in August.
- Last week, PepsiCo announced that consumers had voted for Mtn Dew Pitch Black over Mtn Dew Baja Blast by less than half of a percent in "DEWcision 2016." Pitch Black will now be a permanent member of the Mtn Dew lineup, reaching retailers this September.
PepsiCo's Lay's potato chips brand has been running its "Do Us a Flavor" promotion in the U.S. since 2012 and had previously run the promotion in several other countries. That promotion continues today, producing four flavors earlier this year: Fiery Roasted Habanero, Korean Barbecue, Smoked Gouda and Chive and Olive Oil and Herbs.
But Lay's has expanded those consumer voting efforts too, including the brand's first-ever "Flavor Swap" campaign this year, in which consumers voted on which flavors would stay on or be removed from the Lay's lineup. The contest pitted four classic Lay's flavors against the four flavors from this year's "Do Us a Flavor" promotion — and all the classic flavors won consumers' votes.
Those results align with a recent Mintel survey surrounding food and beverage innovation. Mintel found that consumers tend to favor innovations that only slightly change familiar products, and hesitate from straying into new products and flavor varieties. Per the results of that survey and the Lay's "Flavor Swap" contest, it appears consumers tend to stick with what they know.
Letting consumers vote on has two key benefits for manufacturers. First, it allows them to engage with brands and make them feel like they have responsibility and power over the products they will eventually buy. If a consumer voted for a flavor variety and it wins, he or she may be more likely to buy it in the future.
But perhaps even more importantly, manufacturers can streamline the innovation and product development process by asking consumers directly what flavors they like. That means less product sitting unsold on the shelves because a manufacturer pushed the boundary too far on something new that consumers don't want. Manufacturers can save time and money on R&D and production, and reduce food waste at the retail level by giving consumers exactly what they ask for through these voting contest promotions.