SURVEY: How is coronavirus impacting food innovation and R&D?

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags coronavirus Mattson Innovation COVID-19

Onboarding new brands is not top of the priority list right now at most food retailers, many of which are more focused on rationalizing SKUs than adding new ones. Meanwhile, R&D under lockdown isn't easy. So is innovation on pause, or are companies steaming ahead in the knowledge that this crisis will pass, and that innovation is the lifeblood of the industry?

The answer right now depends on who you talk to, says Foster City, CA-based Mattson​, a leading product innovation firm that has worked with brands from Ripple and PopChips to Bolthouse Farms, White Castle, and Atkins.

Some brands are hitting the 'pause' button because time and resources are being temporarily redeployed to focus on getting existing products out of the door; because R&D under lockdown is challenging; or because priorities have changed.

Others, however, are going full-speed ahead (as far as this is possible with shelter-at-home orders and the like).

Fill in the survey... so we can share the findings

To get a fuller picture of what's going on at large and small brands, Mattson is urging R&D professionals and founders to fill in a SHORT SURVEY​- results of which will be widely shared with the industry (and by FoodNavigator-USA​) addressing everything from short term challenges to how coronavirus could impact medium and longer range planning.

Are R&D professionals working in their home kitchens, or still in the office/lab? Are there creative new ways to conduct consumer testing without being physically present? Are buyers accepting samples at home?

Will consumers have different priorities in the weeks and months ahead, or is it risky to change course based on current shopper behavior, especially if the products you're working on won't hit the market until next year?

As several industry sources have pointed out, the fundamental challenges facing the food system will remain once this crisis passes, and key trends from clean label, plant-based foods, and sustainable sourcing and packaging aren’t going to go away. Moreover, forward-thinking food companies should in any case be looking one, three, five and even 10 years down the road... as well as at this week's Nielsen data.

  • Please give up a few minutes of your time to fill in the survey HERE​ so Mattson can gather the data.
  • We are also keen to understand how (and indeed if) this pandemic is impacting your innovation strategy at FoodNavigator-USA, so please share your experiences and insights with​ to help inform our ongoing coverage​.



One foot is firmly planted in the now, but you still need to put one foot forward into the future. ​​

“We’re hearing indications that the July resets will still happen, and we’re slated to launch 40+ items this July and they are ready to go, and we’ve not stopped any initiatives. Our R&D department is still working, they are just working from home; anyone not making products in the plant is now working from home.​​

“We’re still shipping products back and forth and trying things, all the packaging is being ordered and all the designs and graphics are getting done, so we have not stopped any of that.”

Peter McGuinness, president, Chobani (read more HERE​)


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