The importance of product sampling in a food innovation

December 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

These days, I face the challenge of launching a breakthrough innovation in the category my brand plays (Roast & Grounded Coffee) and while thinking of my strategies to help build the awareness of the innovation, I looked back at what I learned at my early days in Kellogg Venezuela.

Some year’s ago, I had my first experience with product sampling. We were about to re-launch the All Bran Family into the Venezuelan market place. At that moment, the awareness on fiber was being built by other categories such as Bread or Dairy. And so we decided to “jump into the wave” and after formulating a couple of NPD‘s of great fiber content we decided to enlarge our “traditional” fiber cereal.

The above reference is the Pack that was for sale before the brand’s relaunch. And below is our first approach to the line extension.

Not only the original pack was old; but the consumer (and our clients) had some paradigms about this product. It had a bunch of year in the marketplace, selling just a couple of boxes per client/mo and the product was described with very awful adjectives that I prefer to keep to myself.

The New products were (are) great, the taste of the products, the combination of Ingredients, and the fiber were what the consumer was looking for. But we needed to overcome a paradigm of “brand’s perception”.  Having lot’s of research tests that placed the innovation as a winner, we thought it just require some ATL awareness to build on sales.

But after listing the product, the buyers (retailers) still would buy enough product nor the would they accept the product to be displayed in the shelf edge because they didn’t belive in the product.

The solution:

A custom-made “tasting” plan design to help build the awareness of the retailers on the benefits.

The results:

The retailers “got” the innovation and supported our campaign. We obtained more and better spaces, Our POP lasted longer on the shelves and the rotation of the product improved considerately.

Replicating the acquired know-how:

After watching the amazing results on the clients, we decided to go massive. The Idea was to help the consumer move forward; help them believe that the new product was tasteful (main barrier). The results were immediately. But this was too easy. A Point-of-Sale display, a promoter and some “ready to eat” cereal and the rest was a piece of cake.

These days I’m up against a similar challenge. The company that I now work for (Sara Lee – Spain) introduced some months ago a coffee innovation.

Similar to the single serve capsules well know in the european market (Senseo by Sara Lee, Dolce Gusto & Nesspreso by Nestle and Tassimo by Kraft) the idea behind the innovation is to offer the consumer a convenient way to brew a better tasting / better smelling coffee and improve the experience.

The huge difference:

The single serve products require a special coffee machine that brews the coffee with pressured water. In Spain, the penetration of these machines, is very low (about 7%) whereas in the Netherlands, the penetration goes all the way to 70%.

On the other side, single serve capsules have been widely advertised. Here are some examples:

It’s not only TV commercials. There is a lot of promotions in TV and Viral videos aswell:

So, The innovation I’m supposed to make a successful launch for the company are New Coffee Capsules by Marcilla specially designed for traditional coffee makers (well-known in Spain as “Napolitanas” or in Venezuela as “Grecas”). This capsules perfectly fit the funnel of a medium size machine and offers the consumer a more intense flavour and aroma.

We have decided that if in a 45 days christmas period all single serve (above) are able to invest as much as 14.000+ GRPs to build awareness and desire toward their products, we should build a message that competes against this amount of publicity, but “ride the wave” and build a concept that is aspirational as single serve capsules, yet easier (and less expensive, due to the available Italian Coffee Maker’s park).

So here are our two approaches to building awareness on our new concept. The first (20 seg), builds on the desire, the awareness and the quality of the product. The second (10 seg) builds on convenience and easy to use.

This time, we know that consumers need to be reassured that the coffee they’ll drink meets their standards (or better), this is why we need to sample our great coffee (It’s really the same great coffee inside a capsule that helps the traditional coffee maker brew a better coffee).

The challenge:

This product is not ready-to-drink, so it’s not really as easy as “Try this great new product”. The coffee (inside the capsule) is the same grounded coffee that Marcilla sells in packs. And the barrier to this product is understanding how it works. Plus, the main reason the consumers keep their Italian Coffee Maker is the aroma when brewing.

These sampling events:

For these sample events to work, we need the consumer to see that the coffee maker “Napolitana” is the same type of coffee maker they now use at home (some 60% of Spanish House Holds). So we need to “show the whole drill”:

  • Opening the coffee maker
  • Filling the base with mineral water.
  • Introducing the funnel.
  • Placing the capsule inside the funnel.
  • Closing the Napolitana.
  • Heating the water & brewing.
  • Serving

It’s actually a very short drill, but the waiting time from closure until serving could bore consumer and loose selling opportunities.

So far, we have about 200 GRPs on air, but soon we’ll have a good campaign to launch this fabulous product. Results will tell if we created a good launch strategy.


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