Product Development
Thinking Inside the Box

The Time To Wow is Now

April 10, 2012
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Tom_In-Body.jpgI was recently at the PLMA roundtable discussing new product development.

Not long ago, we had clients here in our home base of Toronto for a whole week doing workshops on NPD.

I see from the UK this morning a major conference on NPD coming up in April. I am thinking about how the manufacturing community is addressing this important issue.

We are all mostly congratulating ourselves on getting better consumer perception ratings on our “equivalency” to national brands. Come on folks! That was yesterday’s table stakes. We really need to be seeing the exciting things happening from Kroger to Safeway and from Costco to Loblaw. These savvy and sophisticated retailers are working closely with manufacturers around the globe to bring, really wow products to the shelf. As manufacturers, you hold the key to this process. “Nonsense!” I hear you all saying. “It’s the retailers that drive the bus!” Well, think on this a bit more. Is it really? I hear so many tales of retailers who tell me they get offered what everyone gets offered. We all walk the floors of the trade shows from PLMA and see great ideas, but so often the really “good stuff” only gets shown to the limited few. Yes, there are multiple reasons. PL manufacturers are getting bigger and therefore need bigger production runs, cutting out the potential for small-to-medium sized retailers who want their own unique products. But to all my manufacturing friends out there, this is your biggest challenge right now.

You have to find ways to supply your best and newest innovations to any retailer that is committed to building their customer base and their customer loyalty through tomorrow’s products, not just yesterday’s. And even for the big retailers, the new and unique products will likely have smaller volumes initially anyway. And we should not forget that there are, of course, small-to-medium sized manufacturers turning to PL as their most sustainable road to the future. Specialty manufacturers who have a dream of being the next major brand. But so often, that’s all they are. Dreams! But today with the audits of any plants being so relatively easy to get to offer a retailer the quality guarantee of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and the British Retail Consortium (BRC), etc. almost anyone can get into the game. And retailers are seeking new manufacturers at the specialty shows more than ever. And, I am pleased to see some of those smaller folks getting into the mainstream PL trade shows as well. And what happens? Think bees at the hive.

So, manufacturers, when did you last brainstorm on tomorrow’s products and how you can develop a better offering to more customers? P&G and Nestle can use co-manufacturer/packers. Maybe you need to as well. Or invest in smaller, more flexible production facilities. But it all hinges on your ability to develop new products. Spend some time on this.

Just a few thoughts till next time.

Tom Stephens is the founder of Brand Strategy Consultants, North York, Ontario. He can be reached at 416-391-1635 or VOIP him at: Vonage 416-907-9848 or Skype at stephenscrimson, or e-mail at Stephens says thinking “inside the box” is often appropriate, since answers to 90 percent of retail problems can be found inside the four walls of the store.

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