Nestlé Offers Some Agile Best Practices for New Product Development

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When innovation is your job, you’re always looking for opportunities to improve. And for Derron Wrubel, Innovation Consultant in Consumer & Marketplace Insights at Nestlé USA, the area with the most potential for innovation is market research itself. Competing in the fast-faced world of consumer packaged food products requires the flexibility to pivot at a moment’s notice, utilizing whatever tools and partners will help you get the answers you need when you need them. So in our recent webinar, Derron shared the most important lessons he has learned from innovating on his innovation process to gain the consumer insights needed to launch a product that will satisfy and resonate with consumers.

4 Key Steps to New Product Development

1. Iterate with Purpose

Research often gets a bad rap. There’s a perception that research slows down the process and takes too long; but the truth is that given the right objective, any research can be fast and flexible. How do you determine the right research objective? Through the iterative process that is synonymous with agile market research. By incorporating consumer feedback early and often, you enable purposeful iteration that builds upon knowledge as it is gained, resulting in the faster failure of concepts that fall flat, and even greater confidence going into validation.

2. Get It in Consumer’s Own Words

In Derron’s experience, the pressure of validation processes means that the critical refinement stages often get squeezed. Brands will push concepts to validation without checking on the less-obvious details, like product language. But by incorporating agile research tools into the process, Derron has found it far easier to hear the consumer’s voice at every stage, including refinement.

After discovering respondent confusion over the language used to describe their frozen meal concepts, Derron’s team launched a quick round of qualitative research to understand the terminology, consumer relevance, and pain points of the category. This allowed his team to identify likes and dislikes in the way that consumers talk about them—which turned out to be very different than internally—providing the language refinement needed to connect with consumers in-market.

3. Know Who to Ask

When trying to appeal to massive, sometimes global audiences, it’s tempting to jump into an equally huge research community to get your insights. Big companies often want big solutions, like thousands of respondents in a proprietary panel. But such communities can prove too cumbersome for unplanned questions; and too static for when the ever-changing landscape of food and beverage suddenly shifts. Derron prefers an old mentor’s tried-and-true philosophy that a much smaller sample size can identify the patterns one might see in a larger quantitative set: you don’t need huge communities to reach your ever-changing consumer, and can find just as impactful insights from smaller qualitative research.

4. Find a Partner That Fits

For the particular product we helped Derron develop, the process was far from linear. His innovation team had already drafted some concepts they thought might land with consumers, so we met up in the development and prioritization phase. But after qualitative feedback revealed a new direction for concept development, we helped Derron’s team jump back to exploration to examine the ideas consumer insights suggested and figure out where product opportunity resonated most. It proved crucial for Nestlé to find a strategic research partner who could adapt to their existing process, while being responsive enough to support changes and switch gears as needed.

In light of the relatively common failure of new products, Derron emphasizes that getting from early-stage concepts to in-market success requires a nimble team who is ready to innovate and listen to their consumers throughout the process. To hear all about the new frozen meal product we helped Derron and Nestlé bring to a grocery store near you—and to learn about how agile research can enable your own new product development—watch the enlightening webinar below.

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