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Intimate Knowledge of Operator, Consumer is Key

This knowledge or intelligence would help provide restaurateurs with the new products they need in order to attract patrons to their establishments, according to the "Operators Rank the Year's Best New Products in Foodservice" study by Cognitio, Carmel, IN.

While the study took into account the starting and ending points of the supply chain, it offers distributors sales insights on what their customers are looking for but also procurement hints about which kinds of products to ignore.

{mosimage}"With so many "me too" products vying for inventory space, distributors should only add a new product to their inventory if the manufacturer can demonstrate that the item delivers on one or more of four operator-desired characteristics," David Palmer, president of Cognitio, told ID Access.

Palmer said the new products should do the following:

  • Bring a measurable improvement in operational ease to the product category.

  • Get consumer credit for a "better offering" allowing the operator to improve margin on the menu item.

  • Delivers health/nutrition benefits, which will drive consumer frequency or for which the operator can charge more.

    A total of 898 foodservice operators participated in this national online study. The respondents are responsible for menu and purchase decisions for their eateries. Commercial, non-commercial, chains and independents, contract managed and self-managed operators are represented in the study.

    Among the conclusions of the study are:

  • Become intimately knowledgeable with what operators and consumers want and need.

  • Build a product with a genuine point-of-difference that meets operators' needs.

  • Build products that ease operators' operational headaches and staffing limitations.

  • Ensure that targeted quality and operational performance are actually delivered consistently by the new product at the end-user level.

  • Implement an operator-friendly system for providing samples and information.

    Based on the participants' replies, Tyson Foods was ranked number one out of 290 manufacturers for the third consecutive year.

    Cognitio researchers pointed out that Tyson stands out because it knows and provides what consumers want, continually introduces new products and markets effectively. Tyson ranks first with chicken and 11th with beef.

    Also included in the top 10 manufacturers are: McCain Foods, Kraft Foods, Nestle, General Mills, PepsiCo, ConAgra Foods, H.J. Heinz Co., Sara Lee, and Hormel Foods.

    Protein products again dominated the best new products list in the 2005 rankings, occupying seven out of the top 20 spots. Next in popularity are sides, beverages and sauces/dressings.

    In responses to a question, asking what are the characteristics of a successful new product leader, respondents provided the following observations in descending order of importance:

  • Knowledgeable and helpful reps; keeps us informed; spends time with us; and good product support.

  • High quality and consistent quality.

  • Provides samples, product and nutrition information; and attends food shows.

  • Markets effectively; and helps me market effectively.

  • Knows and provides what consumers and kids want; and offers on-trend products.

  • Continually introduces a wide variety of new products.

  • Knows operator's needs and fits operationally with operator.

  • Products are healthy and nutritious.

  • Provides operational advantages; easy preparation and convenient.

  • Provides multiple application ideas, recipes and menu ideas.

    On the opposite side, operators listed the following points in answering what was wrong with new products:

  • Product quality deficiencies.

  • Poor performance.

  • Weak idea.

  • Poor appearance.

  • Unwanted product ingredients and poor healthfulness.

  • Not accepted by consumers.

  • Wrong packaging and portion size.

  • No fit.

  • Poor price-value.

    According to Cognitio, the two benefits most sought by operators are back-of-house operational advantages in reducing labor and training requirements, and improved profitability.

    Furthermore, the researcher has found that one of the most important new product disciplines recently implemented by manufacturers is total commitment to launching only new products that truly possess a wanted point of difference and not settling for what plants can most easily produce.

    The second discipline is dedication to launching only after the new product has proven to work in actual foodservice operations. This protects the brand, limits risk, and helps capture and full potential of a new product when taken to market.

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