Seeking ‘Conscious’ Innovation
Ah, Paris. The food, the wine, the people, the products, the innovation. These were all part of SIAL Paris, the global food tradeshow I attended last October. More than 150,000 people from 200-plus countries attended this magnificent event, which showcases some of the most innovative food and beverage products from around the world.
What does SIAL have to do with convenience retailing here in the United States? Quite a lot, as it turns out. I went to Paris anticipating I’d see fabulous products (which I did) and gain a new understanding of the global differences in consumer preference and behavior (which I did). But more than anything, it confirmed that consumers around the world essentially want the same things in products and experiences.
While the demands are essentially the same, the way manufacturers around the globe are fulfilling those demands could provide some great insight for U.S. companies. Most of these products have been what I call consciously innovated—meaning they’ve been developed based on keen insights about real consumer demand.
XTC, a global research firm that works with SIAL to name top product innovations at each show, identifies the leading trends that inform innovation as pleasure, health and convenience. Pleasure trends are among those most widely represented in innovation worldwide, followed by natural and medical health trends with specific product benefits and ingredient transparency.
Convenience trends meanwhile play on ease of handling/product use. As eating behaviors change, meals are becoming unstructured and new “food moments” are entering consumers’ daily lives. As was evident with many of the new products at SIAL Paris, convenience is an increasingly important factor, and manufacturers are now delivering solutions focusing on these new food moments.
I spent a lot of my time at the SIAL Innovation Observatory, where the SIAL Innovation Awards winners were housed, to see first-hand how the most innovative products delivered on these trends of pleasure, health and convenience—all with a special lens on the convenience-store industry.
- The HotChocSpoon from Dutch firm the Chocolate Company (www.chocolatecompany.nl) is a simple, easy and delicious way to add a simple pleasure to a coffee program. Chunks of chocolate are embedded in a wooden spoon to be stirred into coffee to make a divine cup, or into hot milk for the best hot chocolate ever.
- Guzzle Puzzles from U.K. company The Natural Confectionery Co. (www.naturalconfectionery.co.uk) are gummy-like shapes than fit together to create new flavor combinations. Raspberry paired with lime creates pink lemonade. Food interaction at its best.
- Energy drinks were everywhere, but I’m told the number of exhibitors was down this year vs. 2010. One with a real difference is Northern Ireland company Little Big Shot Energy (www.littlebigshot.com), with 100% fruit and no preservatives, caffeine or artificial flavors. It’s one of only a few energy drinks marketed to women and kids.
- A healthful and small pleasure for kids is Vrai Mon Pocket Bio from French company Tiballat Noyal (www.triballat.fr), a pocket-sized organic yogurt drink packaged in a 2.2-ounce, easy-to-handle “sachet.” Not just for kids, it’s a nice “shot” of a snack for anyone.
- Turbo Tango from British beverage company Britvic (www.britvic.com) is an aerosol-powered bottle that sprays a foamy orange jet straight into your mouth. This unique foamy drink is the ultimate in convenience since you don’t really even need to drink it.
- A product creating real buzz was No Fear Extreme Energy (www.nofear.com), an energy drink with a twist—no really, a real twist as it’s the only energy drink I saw with a resealable twist top on the can.
- Petales de Viande Sechee are meat snacks in the form of petals from Swiss company DeliSwiss (www.deliswiss.com)—perhaps a new and female-focused addition to the meat snacks section.
- Toasties are a “real meat deal for your toaster,” according to the Canadian company Tillman’s (www.tillmanstoasty.ca). This was one of my favorite products. They’re delicious, portable and filling and provide a whole new option for on-the-go protein snacking.
Yes, these products are interesting, new and relevant. But the best thing about them is they’re designed to reflect specific trend criteria—pleasure, health, or convenience—to ensure they appeal to their target consumer. Because of that, they’ve sold well and are on their way to generating incremental volume and profit for both retailers and the companies that manufacture them.