Relating to consumers and markets the key to product success

There is no doubt that in the food industry the consumer's concept of the product and the relationship of the product to the consumer' s needs, wants and behaviour, are critical to success of the product (Saguy and Moskowitz, 1999). There needs to be a clear target market segment(s) identified early in the project. The interaction of the consumer or customer with the product must be identified in the early stages of the product development project, and then followed through each stage of the product development process and finally evaluated after the launch. Knowledge from the evaluation needs to be built up as a knowledge base for incremental product changes, so that a great deal of knowledge on the product/consumer relationship is known at the start of the next project. With a major innovation, there is a need for a great deal of research on the consumer/product relationship in the early stages and constant consumer testing throughout the project.

Relationships between the manufacturer/supplier/user vary a great deal between industrial selling of ingredients, the food service selling of meals and snacks, or the retailing of consumer products in the supermarket. In each there is a blend of product and services, but the proportion of each varies. In industrial and food service product development, there is a need to combine product development and service development, as both are related to the product success. In marketing meals in a restaurant and ingredients to a food manufacturer, there is usually personal involvement of the supplier with the user. Food manufacturers may not have much direct contact with the consumer of their products who experience the product in a supermarket or other retail setting. Therefore the product/consumer relationship is all-important in product development. The level of manufacturer/user involvement is related to the ratio of product quality to services in the total product, and to the blend of product and service development.

Grunert et al. (1996) showed, by extensive studies in the European food industry, that a strong marketing orientation is vital for successful product development. Grunert et al. (1997) found in examining a number of case studies in the food industry that sometimes innovation was driven by process development and sometimes product development, but the common need was for a marketing focus.

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