Foreword to the Autumn 2013 Issue

How to get your product to stand out from the crowd

You have an idea for a fantastic new functional food. The nutrition benefits are undeniable (and proven), but how can you elevate your product’s attributes above the incredible amount of noise in the hyper-competitive marketplace for healthy foods and get it noticed?

The significant investment required to develop scientifically robust, consumer-tested foods that have staying power in the market make this a high-risk activity. With functional foods launching and failing with striking regularity, the key to success is changing people’s buying habits by making your product into one that is perceived as meeting a nutrition and aspirational health need, and evolves into a regular shopping basket staple.

One of the themes for the conference at NutraFormulate 2014 on 18-19 March is how to get your product noticed. Functional food is a complex world for consumers to navigate; they are bombarded with messages about what is good and bad by brands, media and government. They also need to see value for money and a health benefit that is important to them. The challenge for anyone operating in this space is to make the audience care. Messages need to be meaningful, relevant and remarkable, which is something that the process of co-creation can help with. Co-creation is about collaborating with people outside their organisation (e.g. consumers, customers, experts and ingredients suppliers) to develop ideas that add real value to their lives. Tom Ellis, Director of Insight and Innovation at Brand Genetics will discuss how it is crucial to understand how to collaborate, with whom, and what ‘developing ideas’ really means in this context. This Keynote presentation at NutraFormulate on 19 March will share insights and practical tips on how, done right, co-creation can help grow businesses by being more consumer- relevant, and draw on experience of Brand Genetics’ work on developing innovative new products and brands with major companies including ABInBev, Bacardi, Britvic, GSK, Muller, Reckitt Benckiser and Sara Lee.

These days, all categories are full of products that are fit for purpose, and so research has a far tougher job than ever before. In order to know that your product will actually be bought, you have to be sure that something else will cease to be a regular shopping basket addition; old habits die hard and functional foods are not immune. Even though the products might have new-to-market benefits, people will still have to change their ingrained purchasing patterns. It might feel unfair that products with real health benefits struggle to be visible to shoppers amidst the plethora of heavily branded products in the same category, but that is the reality of the situation. Brand building, product development and packaging design are the three pillars of success. In the Keynote presentation on 18 March, David Howlett, Strategic Planning Director at MMR Research will focus on case studies and practical examples about how success can be assured including some new research conducted specifically for NutraFormulate that will highlight the challenges, and clarify some of the underlying insights that can ensure a higher success rate.

Back up a few steps though, and research into the links between diet and disease prevention is still crucial in establishing the ingredients and dose-responses that make sense in relation to developing foods that have a tangible health benefit and justify the added value price tag of foods that are “good for you”. The relationship between food and obesity, fibre and gut health, nutrition and cognitive function, will be discussed at NutraFormulate, together with dietary aids for healthy ageing, ingredients for cardiovascular health, the role of polyphenols and health, optimizing satiety, and understanding consumer perception of foods with a manipulated nutrition profile.

Finally, and by no means least in the functional foods story is the importance of sustainability. Sustainability means many things to many people, but simply put it can be considered as the capacity to endure. With this in mind all parts of the food supply chain need to think broader and ensure that the value of the waste stream is maximized. In a sector where ingredients in some instances are from sources where consistent supply is in question, the moral obligation to ecological responsibility is ever-present; sustainable manufacturing, sourcing, recycling, processing and packaging not only make for a positive PR story, but enable the continued production of specialist foods to be sustainable in the long term.

One of the first steps is to think in terms of circularity and consider waste as a potential input not just an output. This may be for your own process, but could also benefit someone else’s who recognises the functional potential of your product. Collaboration and open innovation could therefore be essential mechanisms in developing sustainable food manufacturing processes. Steve Osborn, Business Innovation Manager at Leatherhead Food Research, will be discussing this important topic.

NutraFormulate will take place on 18-19 March 2014 at the NMM Birmingham.

Victoria Emerton
Conference and Event Manager, NutraFormulate