Wednesday, 23 August 2017

 

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The art of baking has been about for centuries with the world’s oldest oven – found in Croatia in 2014 – reckoned to be 6,500 years old. Over the years, this art remains a skill and is important for nutrition, as baked goods, especially breads, are a common but basic food, both from an economic and cultural point of view.

Keeping baked goods at the forefront of peoples’ minds when they shop is not just a natural occurrence, writes Andre Erasmus. As tastes and options expand, ongoing research and product development was needed to maintain this position.

The world seems to have ‘shrunk’ in terms of tradition and cultural diversity with food that was once, typically Indian (for example), now available the world over as are other formerly regional or national delicacies and foods.

This is where New Product Development (NPD) and laboratory research are key players. But it needs to be a well thought-out strategy to meet customer needs.

Take the more indulgent cakes and patisserie market as an example. Globally, this retail sector of the baked goods segment continues to grow in volume and value, says Euromonitor. It grew by 18% between 2012 and 2016. The forecast growth by 2020 is a further 20.7%.

Innovative ingredients and products producer Puratos decided to check out the expectations and improvement opportunities by setting off on a global trip, interviewing around 6,000 consumers about their choices, attitudes and perceptions all related to the patisserie industry.

That’s one way of investigating opportunities for new product development, but it might be a tad expensive for some. Puratos and others know that what the consumer likes is what determines market dominance so they have their Sensobus which takes the NPD trial products to the market, as it were.

The Sensobus is a unique and fully-equipped sensory analysis lab on wheels that can travel to where consumers shop for food and welcome up to 250 people a day. 

It is a fine line that has to be tread here – not everyone likes change – and a recent report by IRI shows that new product launches are declining in the UK, and probably elsewhere. And, I must admit, the variety of baked goods on supermarket shelves does seem to be reducing.

Why is this? Are consumers becoming more selective? Are they watching what they spend? Or are bakers reducing their output variety to save on spend?

I would venture that it is a combination of all of these factors. There can be nothing worse than spending a lot of money developing a new product based on insufficient foundation in research, only to have it fail once on the market. This could be for a number of reasons, perhaps because the consumer does not like change or because of economic factors.

So, developing a new product has to be carefully thought through and all factors taken in to account.

It is well known that rigorous planning backs a successful product launch, and a new product needs to be successful to justify its development costs and pre-launch investment. Besides that, the new product needs to follow the company’s core brand strategy; be developed both internally and externally (that means customer sampling as the external factor); be fully supported by the company’s innovative teams and have the right marketing strategy.

There is also the danger that a new product might have a limited life and just be a ‘fad’ and not become a ‘trend’.

The IRI report showed that 1,820 products have been removed from an average sized supermarket’s shelves over the past two years and this is something of which bakeries are well aware. Obviously economic factors are at play here.

The future will probably see NPD concentrating on fine-tuning or improving existing lines. Similarly, consumer needs will become more crucial.

So, time to ditch that plan for the pre-cooked and creamed croissant/bagel and improved the quality of that sliced loaf, I reckon… 

Related articles: 

 

BLOG: In the Spotlight: Innovation in Packaging 

BLOG: Being a Craft Bakery Takes Guts 

BLOG: Baking Opportunities in Nanotechnology 

BLOG: Becoming a Global Force

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