Product Strategy Development:
Idea Generation and Screening
3.3 SYSTEMATIC FOCUSED IDEA GENERATION
Ideas come from both a 'technology push' and a 'consumer pull'. The technology push comes from knowledge of marketing, processing and product technology and their related scientific bases. The consumer pull comes from knowledge of the consumers and their individual and societal bases.
Figure 3.2 Idea generation: technology push and consumer pull
The consumer needs analysis includes the relation of present products to user needs, defects in present products, unfulfilled needs. Consumer concerns have been a strong pull in the 1990s, with the proliferation of 'deprivation foods' low in sugar, salt and fat, nutritional foods offering supplements of proteins, minerals and vitamins, functional foods offering physiological benefits and/or reductions in the risk of chronic disease beyond nutritional needs, and pharmaceutical foods (nutriceuticals) offering health benefits.
The technology sources include the scientific and technical literature, R&D scientists in the company, universities and research organisations, the production, engineering and quality assurance staff in the company, and the raw material and equipment suppliers. In small companies, it tends to come from production and engineering staff, in the large company from the R&D department.
The marketing sources include competition, overseas markets, sales journals, consumers, consumer books and magazines, advertising agencies, market research companies, distributors (wholesalers, retailers, food service, agents, brokers), sales personnel and marketing people in the company. This information includes market trends, new product introductions, market needs and market analysis. Retailers may see a need for further brands of a certain product, and they can under their own brands copy a product already on the market to supply this need.
The market can be analysed by studying trends in sales, by gap analysis to see if there is a product missing, by measuring shelf space to see if a product line needs to be extended, and by comparison testing with competing products to see if the company's product needs to be improved. The company can set up a product matrix of their own and competing products, i.e. product classes, product lines and individual products, to discover gaps into which the company can introduce a new product.
The company is continuously monitoring the 'feel' of the market by doing market research, including retail audits and consumer studies. Sales trends and information from supermarket sales are now extensively available and analysed. More general information can be found on business and economic trends from banks and consultants, and on social changes from social studies reports by government or academics.
There are two significant groups in food production – the food processors who supply the food ingredients and the food manufacturers who produce the final consumer products.
Many ideas in the food manufacturing industry come from the ingredient suppliers, the food processors, who not only supply the ingredients but increasingly supply the formulation and also the relevant consumer and market research. So where do the food processors find their ideas for new ingredients? Very often from new agricultural and marine products and from their studies of the manufacturers' needs and wants, as well as from their basic research. The food processors cooperate with the agricultural and marine primary producers in developing new raw materials, and with the food manufacturers in developing their ingredient products and their applications. Therefore they do much of the research in the food industry, usually spending a higher percentage of their sales on research and development than the food manufacturers.
The product improvement, product line extension and me-too product come usually from the market and the consumers; the cost reduction comes from production; but the innovation comes from studying long-term technological and social changes. There are always trends occurring and people predict the outcome of these trends using different techniques. In econometric forecasting, historical trends of populations, population demography, household sizes, agricultural production and food production are projected forward to predict the future.
In scenario painting, different scenarios are presented and future outcomes predicted; for example, possible scenarios could be:
‘a return to living in small towns in 30 years time’ - what effect would this have on the food industry?
‘China will develop technically and it will be also the largest world market and strongly influence the
international food market’ – noodle soup instead of hamburgers as the global food take-away?
‘ Genetic engineering produces animals with the white meat of chicken and the size of a beef animal’
- will this see the demise of red meat?
It can be seen that scenarios are searching for long-term social and technological changes, and there are various methods such as the Delphi technique which are used to develop and analyse these scenarios.
There is a wide range of sources for knowledge in product idea generation and it is important to recognise them and not to work in too narrow a knowledge base. Some important areas are shown in Table 3.1.
Table 3.1 Some knowledge sources for new product idea generation
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