How Suja Adopted Agile Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methodologies to Redesign Packaging for Its Leading Product Line

Sep 10, 2019

Sometimes success solves one challenge (revenue streams!) only to create a new challenge. Like when your product is now on the shelves everywhere, but your enterprise is still small enough that further innovation utilizing any kind of exploratory research to understand your customers seems like a Herculean undertaking. 

Take Suja, for example. Rapidly on the rise, Suja is an organic, non-GMO, cold-pressured beverage company that in just four years had gone from selling their products in 300 stores to 14,000 stores. But the company’s fast expansion also meant that the Suja marketing team’s product innovation timelines had to be just as fast: only six weeks from concept to shelf. 

While Suja has launched well over 100 products since their inception, almost half of these have been discontinued. In order to assess each product’s performance in the time allowed and pivot quickly away from lesser-performing ones, the marketing team had to employ a flexible, do-it-yourself (DIY) approach when it came to testing and launching new products, especially since they’re a team of only three people operating with a tight budget.

But continuing to rely on DIY research was no longer an option since the team lacked the time and the expertise necessary to incorporate valuable components like survey creation, data analysis, and report building. As Bella Tumini, Suja’s Brand Manager, explained, “Having the DIY tools without the people wasn’t helpful because we’re such a small team.”

Despite their meteoric growth, Suja still needed to stand out from the many brands that had entered the organic juice category, which was now making it harder on consumers to choose at the shelves. Forbes contributor Paul Talbot confirms, “Today, it is not unusual for a supermarket to carry 50,000 SKUs. The size of the supermarket is one factor. But so are brand extensions and new product introductions, notably in the organic categories.”

Keeping the company’s momentum going while solidifying a relationship with new and existing customers that started at the shelves was going to have to come from a product packaging redesign.

Suja’s challenge in detail

Standing out in a suddenly crowded field required Suja to learn more while still moving fast. The company needed to know if a packaging redesign would work for their customers and how, lest they risk their most important product line. 

Essentially, the Suja marketing team wanted to decrease the amount of time consumers spent at the shelves by using exploratory research and concept testing to help differentiate Suja’s product labels from their competitors.

But before moving forward with a redesign of their leading product line’s packaging, the team had to be sure the update would enhance the brand’s performance while appealing to both of their consumer segments.

The solution and research

Together, the Suja marketing and GutCheck research teams came up with a methodology and study design, including both quantitative and qualitative research, to answer the key question: Are consumers more or less likely to buy the new packaging vs. the current packaging?

The research objectives were broken up into two phases: 

In Phase 1 — Exploratory Qualitative Research — the teams sought to:

  • Understand the consumer response to the current Suja packaging
  • Gauge initial likes, dislikes, and overall appeal of new packaging
  • Understand any improvements for purchase intent, believability, and uniqueness based on new packaging

Suja and GutCheck evaluated four packaging sets using a Concept Refiner™, which is a qualitative study that gathers targeted consumer feedback on concepts and identifies key areas to fine tune. Five days later, the Suja team had a report with package optimization suggestions.  

In Phase 2 — Quantitative Research — the teams wanted to evaluate two packaging executions in a sequential monadic design that were focused on key metrics including appeal, uniqueness, quality, product function, and purchase intent. 

Called a Concept Prioritizer™, this quick quantitative test presented a set of stimuli to targeted consumers to rate on those key metrics, using statistical testing to identify top performers quickly and confidently. In another five days, the Suja team had a report with package prioritization suggestions.

The results

“This Suja product line is our number-one revenue driver and makes up the largest percentage of our portfolio,” Tumini noted. “Because of the risk involved in updating its packaging, this was one of the most important studies we’ve done as a company.”

No pressure at all to get it right.

But within days, it was clear the new packaging outperformed the current packaging (at the time of the study) by nearly a two-to-one ratio, giving the Suja team the confidence they needed to move forward with the redesign. The feedback from both of their consumer segments revealed several key findings:

  • The current packaging was too busy; a cleaner, less cluttered label was desired so the ingredients could stand out more.
  • Easily recognized certification labels helped create trust in the quality of the product.
  • Product claims were believed for both packaging sets due to natural ingredients and certification labels.
  • Regardless of the current or new packaging, consumers trusted the Suja brand.
  • Bright colors that matched the juice’s colors were liked across the board.
  • The new packaging was perceived as high quality, sophisticated, modern, stylish, and clean — exactly what the team hoped for.

After concept testing and taking into account all consumer feedback, the Suja team made significant updates to the packaging, which led to the final product that is now available in stores. Here is how Suja made some of the improvements to the final product packaging:

  • Built brand awareness with a more prominent Suja logo
  • Made more room for the brand and “organic” by removing “Essentials”
  • Spoke to the top-5 category purchase driver with a more prominent call-out of “organic”
  • Brought more transparency to the label to champion the juice
  • Put a heavier emphasis on the ingredients to speak to the #1 category purchase driver
  • Adopted an overall more premium look and feel that better fit within the Suja product family and branding

Most importantly, the research results proved to both the marketing team and the key stakeholders that the packaging redesign was not only worth the investment but that the new packaging would likely increase purchases. And getting the results so fast allowed the Suja team to launch the new product line packaging in time for their peak buying season.

Using quantitative and qualitative research to strike packaging gold

Suja was right to feel trepidation about changing the packaging of their leading product line. And relying on their own marketing team to do the customer research needed made it even more nerve-wracking since the team lacked the resources to fully explore the “whys” behind their customers’ preferences and purchasing behaviors. 

But given their short product innovation timelines and the overall volume and velocity of the competition, Suja had to be sure that the redesign would appeal and be relevant to the right people before they made a move. Starting with exploratory research (the qualitative aspect) allowed them to know their customers more completely before using quantitative research to test design concepts on them. 

The combination of both quantitative and qualitative allowed the team to gauge the interest in and preferences of their customer segments when it came to the packaging redesign, before then moving forward with and optimizing the best options — and all at an agile pace that didn’t hinder the company’s product innovation goals. 

Agile market research methodologies helped solve a challenge for Suja that so many growing companies face: investing in successful product innovation with few resources and fast timelines. 

To see another example of how an agile approach helped a team at Nestlé tackle new product innovation, take a look at the case study below.

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© 2019 GutCheck is a registered trademark of Brainyak, Inc. All rights reserved.