Consumers Eat Their Cake and Salad, Too

Discussion
Mar 14, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Ponce de Leon came to the new world searching for the Fountain of Youth. The band of merry gentlemen who made up the Monty Python troupe went trotting across the English countryside to the sounds of coconuts clapping together to find the Holy Grail. Today, Americans everywhere are off looking to find that elusive “balance” between what they know they should eat and what actually finds its way into their stomachs.


For example, eating a high calorie and fat laden meal now can be justified by a consumer if he or she makes a promise to “balance” it with exercise and a lighter meal later.


According to an article in The Hartman Group’s Hartbeat e-newsletter, “balance has become one of the dominant consumer ideologies of the early 21st century.” It is also, according to the piece, “mostly an illusion.”


Balance, the article’s author maintains, “is more of an ideological construct than a legitimate practice… an aspirational goal as opposed to an empirical reality – something we all strive to achieve vs. something actually attained.”


The goal then, for companies such as retailers that market and sell products to consumers, is to understand the difference between what people say and what they do and buy.


Moderator’s Comment: Why do so many new products fail? How can food retailers do a better job of stocking store shelves with products consumers will
buy?


How many “better-for-you” foods have died on the shelf? Great marketing and the consumer’s desire for the magic answer may create trial but it won’t result
in repeat purchases.

George Anderson – Moderator

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8 Comments on "Consumers Eat Their Cake and Salad, Too"


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Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 11 months ago
Many new products fail because they are copycats. If a manufacturer or retailer sees something selling, they instinctively want a cut of the profit and start trying to sell more products like it. Which strikes me as fairly obviously self-defeating because they’re cutting that pie into ever decreasing sized pieces, none of which could ever be as successful as the initial product introducted. That’s first. Secondly, I endorse, wholeheartedly, the taste argument mentioned by other contributors. If it doesn’t taste good, no one is going to come back for more. As for the good for you or balanced lines, I think lots of people are taking that with a pinch of salt (on top of the bigger pinch that the manufacturer has already tossed in). Certainly in the UK there has been a great deal of publicity encouraging people to read labels and compare “better” and “healthier” products with their competition to see precisely what the difference is. I know that reading the label on Heinz’ Weight Watchers baked beans, for example, convinced me that… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 11 months ago

Bernice is right with her first point, I believe. Many new products do fail as they are copycats of what is perceived as selling. More importantly, they are perceived as grabbing the much coveted shelf space.

Few are really innovative. Many we see as ‘new and improved’ are a combination of flavors. Those combination items are most prevalent now in the soft drink category. They are artificial and meant strictly to expand shelf space requirements. In those cases, it’s almost a battle as to who can get it first.

This, like many other things we discuss here, is further example of the lack of ‘real’ dialogue with consumers. It’s a failure of experience.

Mark Boyer
Guest
Mark Boyer
15 years 11 months ago
Start, as the author says, by differentiating between what consumers “say,” and what they actually “do.” Good intentions aside, when the clock is ticking to get dinner on the table, or when a promotion stimulates a purchase that falls outside the good intentions category, or when a consumer is simply too worn out to prepare the meal they might like to, the easier choice is typically the less healthful one. Art’s comment above about taste is right on. Value is also important. It appears the consumer isn’t willing to trade up to “better for you” at a premium. The value must be near or equal to the present offering to make the switch. A lot of what ends up on the shelf resides in “rented space.” The manufacturer pays a fee to get the product on the shelf: the retailer willingly accepts the money as part of a trade funds budget that he or she is tasked to generate. If consumer demand drove the decision-making process for what ends up on the shelf, I think… Read more »
Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 11 months ago

I’m with Art – it’s about how food tastes. People will only suffer for so long without some taste benefit. Add in ease of preparation and you have the story, in my opinion. There are a lot of foods that I know are good for me, whose taste I also like, but which take a long time to prepare. I am much less likely to eat these foods, simply because of the time it takes to prepare. And I’m an avid cook.

On the other hand, many of the products that ultimately fail, are – or should be – intended to be in and out products, taking advantage of a food fad.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 11 months ago

Nothing recedes like success.

Today, in order to reach the “dream” of ever-increasing sales and profits, one successful branded product spawns too many “new” and unnecessary line-extensions. This clogs up the pipelines as consumers continue to search irrationally for new food thrills to balance off their own lives. Many new products fail because of manufacturers’ illusions that new product acceptance can be based on surveys, which can produce conflicts and confusion about how to hit those moving consumer targets. Meanwhile, retailers cannot rely on slotting fees to keep the junk yard dogs out of their retail dog pounds. That practice just adds to more disillusion. Thus, the time has come for manufacturers and retailers to work more closely together on planning new product generation.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
15 years 11 months ago
It’s is very hard for food manufacturers because consumers in many cases really don’t know what they want. Then, add to that the occasions where people answer surveys with what they want to do and not what they will actually do, and it is a real dilemma. And lastly, even when people do support and buy what they claim they want, many times it turns out to be a fad or regimen that they can’t stay on. The recent low-carb craze and the previous low-fat one are pretty good examples of that. “Better-for-you” foods first of all must taste good. The success of sugar substitutes such as Splenda prove that if a product tastes good it will succeed even after the diet regimen that initially caused people to use it has faded. Low-carb bakery products that didn’t taste great but people put up with on Atkins have a very dim future in my opinion, because most of them just don’t taste very good. Timing is very important if you are going to take advantage of… Read more »
Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
15 years 11 months ago

There isn’t a more sensual item we deal with in our daily lives than food. Besides taste, how it looks, smells and feels in our mouth all are contributing factors as to whether or not we buy it in the first place or ever try it again. Also, we need to look at specific target groups; from the convenient minded, to those that are always looking for the fast way to lose weight. And kids too. Remember when green and purple catsup first hit the shelves? Quickly followed by other products which were unnaturally colored? At some point parents stepped in and said, “Not at my dining table.”

It is a constant effort to keep abreast of taste and trend changes in food more than any other commodity. And I’m glad, because life would be pretty boring with the same old meat and potatoes each day.

Marilyn Raymond
Guest
Marilyn Raymond
15 years 11 months ago

I am a little slow in responding but I do believe that the Wellness Consumer — those who truly look to BFY food that tastes great, is growing — otherwise you wouldn’t see such success in Whole Foods.

The answer isn’t all about the absence of negatives ( no salt, sugar, carbs, fat) it is more about getting more good stuff occasions. Many consumers are willing to spend more for food that is closer to homemade ( no preservatives/coloring etc.) and find that the products that offer that, although more expensive, taste great too!

So, as more and more consumers are willing to pay up, we will see more and more great tasting, BFY foods!

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