Why is baby, toddler and kids’ food maker Plum Organics’ track record at producing sucessful new products better than average - in fact way better than average?
Lots of reasons, speculates VP of Innovation Bentley Hall, but being agile, innovative and driven by consumer insights has certainly helped, he says.
“Innovation is not a department. It’s at the core of our company.”
We’re not afraid of failure
And while having a formalized product development process in place is critical whatever the size of your business, sometimes you just need to have the confidence to get your product out there, he says.
“We are very systematic about how we develop new products, and we have a good filtering mechanism to get rid of bad ones, but we’re also not afraid of failure and we have a healthy respect for gut intuition. Some things that have tested poorly we’ve still gone ahead and launched and they have done incredibly well.
“You can put a product through 85 stage gates and get input from 95 people, but sometimes this just increases your chances of ending up with something truly mediocre that no one is happy with.
“Our success rate for new products is 86% - by which I mean that 86% of the new products we launch get into the top third of the categories they are in.”
We’ve launched 55 new products in the past 12 months
One of the reasons that Plum Organics (which is part of Nest Collective) has gone from a standing start in 2007 to the multi-million turnover business it is today is the speed with which it has managed to get new products from concept to launch, adds Hall.
“We’ve launched 55 products in the past 12 months and have gone from ideation to commercial launch for some products in under 90 days.”
Pouches were an instant hit
Pouches, the firm’s core packaging format today, were a novelty when bosses were first looking for an alternative to glass jars for baby food back in 2007/8, says Hall.
“We had an initial consumer insight phase which we call 360 degree insights where we talked to Moms and watched Moms and babies and it became clear that glass jars were not the best format, especially for traveling. Retailers also don't like them because of the breakage.
“Several of our staff also have young kids and while we have a formal consumer panel to test ideas and prototypes with, we’d seen pouches work in international markets and had a strong instinct they were right for our products, so we pushed hard to commercialize them.
“There were several companies that could produce the pouches, the challenge was finding someone to fill them with our product. In the end we invested in our own kit, brought it into the US and made it happen in late 2008. They were an instant hit.”
An award-winning, baby food-dispensing spoon - which can be attached to the pouches - has also been a big hit along with super-convenient fruit and veg puffs, grain sticks, meltable rice milk-based snacks and novel fruit and veg blends such as broccoli & apple; spinach, peas & pear; Greek yogurt, cherry & sweet corn; and zucchini, banana & amaranth.
It’s a fallacy to think health and taste are mutually exclusive
While the innovation pipeline for the rest of 2012 and early 2013 is top secret, we can expect to see more healthy, tasty and convenient organic foods and snacks for babies, toddlers and young children that combine fruit, vegetables, ancient grains and Greek yogurt; more packaging innovation and greater use of custom molds he says.
“We’re not competing with products such as Fruit Roll-ups. We use little or no refined sugar and no high fructose corn syrup. It’s a fallacy to think health and taste are mutually exclusive.”