Managing a product portfolio is a constant game of keeping ahead. The brands core products need to be kept up to date to make sure that they can last the distance whilst a flow of new product introductions need to be made to keep consumers and customers engaged. The competition to get into a consumer’s consumption routine is fast and furious and we all know that there is limited room on shelf. So how do we make sure that what we are launching is going to drive incrementally to the brands core range of products so we take more shelf space? How do we make sure we create irresistible products that build on our core value proposition and don’t compromise it in anyway?
What we do as product innovators in the initial stages of new product development can make or break a product and your plans to grow your sales. To ensure a products best chance of success, at LaunchJuice, we do some initial work on the product portfolio to map out the role of new product against the core range and we look at this at multiple levels. We call it the Portfolio Ladder. These levels ladder down starting with a clear understanding of your direction for innovation down to the functional attributes your new product can’t be without. Having this ladder scoped out from the start means your new product is more likely to work for your brand, the rest of your portfolio, the retailer and for your consumer too.
Know where you are going to set the direction for innovation
You can’t go into ideation without a product strategy. If you and your team are changing direction frequently, not getting things done, burning through resources or getting overtaken by competitors you may need to look at your strategy and get clear on what you want to achieve and how.
Let’s look at Kind Bar and the brands strategy which is driving new product introductions. Since being acquired by Mars in 2020, their strategy has been to move beyond its core bars to become a broader snacking company. This has seen the expansion of Kind into refrigerated items, chocolate, energy bars, frozen food, cereal, and snack mixes. The bar category, which is the lion’s share of its business is able to sustain the cost of innovation for growth into these new areas. With Kind only reaching about 20% of all US households annually this strategy has lots of potential and its clear the role product development plays in helping the brand to broaden it’s appeal.
Create new consumer value
If you have a legacy product and wish to expand your range, your next product will need to play a different role to generate those incremental sales and avoid simply taking away from the core. At the very forefront of the innovation process is the need to deeply understand your consumer and the pain point, works arounds and friction that they face in their day-to-day life. One of the rungs on our Portfolio ladder is to understand the drivers of consumer choice and define the value proposition for consumers. Let’s see how Kind have done this.
Two of Kinds successful product launches have been the Kind Minis and Kind Thins launched in 2020. The role of their new products has been to bring in new consumers and new occasions to support their strategy to be a broader snacking company. By targeting the weight wellness consumer they tapped into an unmet need for those seeking a snack that was 100 calories or less which was an on-the-go snacks that tastes great as well as being full of nutrition. They effectively balanced health and taste – two drivers of choice for consumers.
“For years, 100-calorie snacks have enjoyed a health halo due to their smaller pack sizes and lower calorie count, but in reality they provide little nutritional value,” says Daniel Lubetzky, Founder & CEO of KIND. “With KIND Minis, we aim to turn the industry’s approach to small portion single-serve snacks upside down. In so doing, we hope to shift the conversation so that it focuses less on quantity of calories and more on quality of ingredients.”
Kind saw brand sales grow faster than the category.
Be true to your brand values
For new product to add to your core innovation must support what your brand stands for and is against. In our Portfolio Ladder we define the brand values that will be infused into every part of the new product from the packaging to the ingredients. Think of these parameters not as limitations on creativity but as considerations that protect and enhance your most valuable asset, your brand.
I came across an honest and inspiring post on LinkedIn from Miyoko’s Creamery recently.
“At the end of the day, it was still not a product I was proud of. In deciding the pull the product off the marketplace, we had to make the decision to take a hit to our revenue in order to re-establish out brand values’ Miyoko Schinner stated, the creator and CEO of Miyoko’s Creamery.
The brand reported that their new product line of sliced and grated vegan cheeses had compromised their values on ingredients, craft and nutrition. The products also had low sales and the brand took swift action to take the products off the shelf and focus on their core range and new products aligned to what they stood for. It’s a great lesson to share with other brands and I am sure their core consumer would have appreciated the up front approach.
Taste and function are the north star
No matter how compelling your brand mission and if you have got a great strategy, consumers may try it once, but if it doesn’t ultimately function and taste better than the alternatives, very few consumers will continue to purchase it. Taste and function are what gets products into consumer consumption routines and keeps them there. It’s the basics of the product that the consumer is just not going to compromise on. It’s the part of the Portfolio Ladder that forms the foundation of the product and becomes critical in the development stage.
I was posted a sample of a new bar concept a few years back when I was working in a Ventures team investing in startups. I was asked to give my opinion on this groundbreaking new concept. The brand had a strong mission and a unique ingredient opportunity to create a more sustainable, healthier, high protein product. It was exciting and I was lucky enough to be one of the first to try it. Despite the strong story behind this innovation, it was the taste and the function that let the product down. Having the unique ingredient story and manufacturing process, was different but it wasn’t satisfying the primary drivers of choice which you just can’t get around. I believe that start up gathered feedback from the industry, including my own, reformulated and now have an awesome product on the market.
At LaunchJuice, we work at the forefront of innovation which is often chaotic and time pressured. We use tools like our Portfolio Ladder to synthesis the strategy and ideation process to help to distill your next opportunity quickly and determine how this opportunity answers your consumer needs. If you are looking to expand your product portfolio and are interested to find out how we can help, please get in touch via our contact form.