The innovation of innovation

It’s common knowledge that premium brands are driving the vast majority of topline growth in the food and beverage market today. And increasingly, companies want to “steal” the winning attributes of premium brands and absorb them into their own brands, if at all possible. But many large food companies continue to avoid innovating how they determine what those winning premium attributes are. This gap in the innovation of front-end innovation leads to misplaced product development efforts that waste resources and irritate retail customers with underperforming launches.

Far too often, we meet clients who feel they can reasonably intuit the design attributes driving a specific premium brand’s growth, perhaps because intuition worked well enough in the past with big brands. But today our foodways are more fragmented and less collectively shared than ever before. One executive’s intuition will be far too narrowly circumscribed to provide real insight.

Those with a data-driven bent to their front-end work often believe that studying product launches by attribute will point the way. At least they’re counting something. But, unfortunately, product launches only measure a group of companies chasing their individual intuition about what’s working, not what consumers are actually gravitating toward. This data then becomes a form of herd intuition that often leads folks to bad product concepts. It can point to fads just as reliably as it points, accidentally, to meaningful trends.

Neither intuition nor launch counts form reliable ways of deconstructing premium brand growth to accelerate product concept development. Let’s look at a revealing example.

Many Americans have a romantic notion of ready-to-eat popcorn grounded in images of sweet-salty kettle corn popped fresh at fairgrounds, ballparks and other outdoor gatherings. So intuitively it would seem that kettle corn would correlate to growth. Right? Wrong.

You can see in the following chart that kettle corn is not a growth attribute.

RTE Popcorn: Real Growth Attributes Are Not the Intuitive Ones

Combining modern statistics with fine-grained UPC sales data, we have reinvented the front end of the innovation funnel for brands that are trying to premiumize through innovation. We call it Trend iD™. This is our proprietary process to surface the specific emerging product attributes driving growth in your category and to estimate their relative mainstreamability in the broader marketplace.

Why invest months or years in the wrong attribute when you can quickly discover the premium attributes that drive real growth?

Trade publications and the media are increasingly overloaded with new food and beverage product attributes, such as minimally processed, GMO-free, organic and natural, but what do they mean? How can you efficiently identify product attributes that drive growth when brands capitalizing on them are small and often lost in metadata analyses?

The Hartman Group’s Trend iD provides answers.

Our Trend iD has been in development for five years, has been validated by CPG clients and is fueled by a rolling product attribute library of over 1,000 sensory and symbolic characteristics organized into 42 attributes classes.

trend-idInnovation that takes consumer need spaces and cultural context into account allows one to go to market with greater confidence. Trend iD isolates the explicit and implicit product attributes that correlate with category sales volume growth and identifies which attributes bundle together in specific consumer benefit spaces to inform innovation, portfolio strategy and M&A activities. Whether you want to validate your existing pipeline or need data-driven inspiration, look to The Hartman Group’s Trend iD.

LEARN MORE ABOUT TREND iD                                                 



As leaders in the study of American food culture, The Hartman Group has been tracking how Americans shop for food since the 1990s. From one-stop shopping to multichannel shopping to online markets and click-and-collect, we continue to track consumers’ evolving perceptions, needs, habits and relationships with food retailers. New to the 2017 report is a special section on the expansion of the discount grocery channel, the emerging fresh-format channel and smaller-footprint retail formats.


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