Food innovations: Recipes for success

The market for food innovations is booming – but what do consumers really want? For a successful product launch, METRO’s innovation hub NX-Food recommends drawing on chefs’ expertise at the product development stage and during market roll-out.

Whitepaper NX Food

Plant-based proteins, food from 3D printers and cultivated meat are just a few of the innovations that the market has on offer. But not everything that lands on retail shelves as a finished product is guaranteed to tickle consumers’ taste buds. What’s more, shelf space in the stores is limited and the acceptance criteria for a new product are not easy to meet. So when it comes to launching innovations, NX-Food draws on the expertise of culinary experts – i.e., chefs – instead of targeting shelf space in the supermarkets straightaway. Successful go-to-market strategies that rely on such cooperation and also benefit the chefs are the subject of the NX-Food experts’ white paper ‘Gastronomy First’.

Culinary experts provide valuable feedback

Chefs are the stars of the food industry. They know exactly what will be a hit and what won’t, and they are always on the lookout for new taste experiences for their guests. ‘Chefs are the experts in all aspects of food. Their feedback can help improve a product and tailor it to customers’ needs,’ says Frank Anders of NX-Food. To test the quality of new products, a chef creates initial sample dishes. ‘I look for products that are similar in texture and flavor to what people know, because that is what they like to eat. So, trick them. Also important are manageability and versatility of the product giving me room to work with,’ says chef Adam Penney, an expert in food innovations and a champion of plant-based nutrition. With his restaurant Three Buns in Singapore, he was a partner in the launch of Impossible Foods’ vegan minced meat as well as the plant-based chicken alternative Tindle made by the start-up Next Gen Foods.

To learn more about NX-Food’s fascinating work and their Gastronomy First strategy concept, check out the interview with Frank Anders.

First impressions count

The first impression often decides whether a consumer buys a product again or not, so it’s critical to start off right when launching food innovations. ‘New products require different handling so giving it into the hands of an expert, who treats the new product with respect and does justice to it, creates a higher chance for a good first impression,’ Penney says. And this also helps to catch a product’s minor potential weaknesses – for example, suppose vegan mozzarella is not suitable for lasagne because it burns too quickly. When a chef knows that, caprese may be a better option to offer guests than lasagne. But if a customer uses it to make lasagne at home and the dish doesn’t turn out well, they will not be likely to buy the product again.

Another key aspect that a chef can transfer to a product or a brand is culinary credibility. ‘There is always doubt in the promotion of a product by a company producing or selling it, but an independent chef vouching with his or her credibility is approval of the highest order for consumers and other chefs,’ says Rachel Soeharto of Impossible Foods. Once a chef is convinced of the quality of a product, they will not only stick with the brand and be more open to new product innovations – they can even be integrated into the marketing. This was the case with Adam Penney and his omnichannel support for the product he helped develop; he now advertises it on social media and takes part in video conferences with journalists. By providing positive first impressions and culinary credibility, the hospitality industry can play a key role in the market launch and in generating demand among end consumers, who will ultimately drive sales once the product hits the supermarket shelves.

Beacon for innovative eating

Cooperation works to the chefs’ benefit as well, as NX-Food’s white paper underscores. Consumers are paying closer attention to whether the food served in the hospitality industry is sustainable, healthy and locally produced. Innovations such as alternative proteins don’t just meet these demands, but also make it possible to create new eating experiences for guests, which in turn attract new customers and provide a competitive advantage in the industry. In addition, this cooperation gives the culinary experts the opportunity to put their signature on the products and get creative, potentially embarking on a new chapter in the history of gastronomy as well.

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