Simple Sells

Discussion
Oct 29, 2009

By George Anderson

Marketers are finding that fewer additives, ingredients and parts
are attractive qualities as consumers yearn for simple in these complex and
occasionally chaotic times.

According to Mintel, which has tracked the average number of
ingredients in 19 food categories, less will mean more sales in 2010. Lynn
Dornblaser, Mintel’s new product expert, told USA
Today
, that labels boasting a minimum number of ingredients
will become more popular than those pushing “natural” or “organic” in 2010.

Datamonitor reports that new products with the words ‘simple’
or ‘simply’ in the brand name or on the label grew nearly 65 percent
between 2005 and 2008.

Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University,
thinks that healthy foods with fewer ingredients is a good thing that other
consumers recognize. “Any trend towards less
processing is good,” she told USA Today.

Discussion Questions:
What do you think is behind the demand for products with fewer ingredients?
Does the desire for simpler extend beyond foods to other product categories
and retail store environments, as well?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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13 Comments on "Simple Sells"


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Joan Treistman
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

All you have to do is look at the package design trends and you will see how marketers are stressing simple as part of their positioning. The Wheat Thins packaging is all about the wheat; Lays focuses on the potato, and so it goes. Consumers want justification for their purchases in terms of value, health, nutrition, and the environment.

It’s not that the world is complex (which it is) but the media has stressed the importance of all these characteristics. Shoppers may not understand the complexities of a few versus many ingredients, but are assured when they see just a few. In this case less is better than more.

But I think marketers to some extent are forgetting about the desire for good taste. Emphasizing what is inside the food does not necessarily make a compelling story for delighting the family or yourself. This is the gap which savvy brand managers can leverage.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
11 years 6 months ago

I think this is a bigger trend than simply being about people wanting products with fewer ingredients. I think it is a sign of the times, and a backlash against the lives US consumers have been living in the past. It is my belief that the trend is more about people wanting a simpler life. Fewer ingredients, fewer buttons on their TV, fewer choices on their menu, less overall consumption. While there are instances where this is not necessarily holding true (there are 100,000 Apps for that), for the most part we see people searching for a significantly simpler life.

Just back to the ingredients for a moment. When the Israeli beauty care product, Yes to Carrots first launched, I questioned its relevancy. But of course, they were right on target. They had a product that was simple, and easy to understand; body and skin care made from carrots. Then came cucumbers and then tomatoes. It has been a near perfect execution, and is another indication that this is what consumers are seeking.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 6 months ago

New and improved! Now with extra melamine and BPA!

We as consumers have been beaten up by the media over what’s in our consumables. The acronym KISS is a core commandment in the retail world (Keep It Simple Stupid is what my crotchety mentor used to blurt out to me from time to time). Customers are in such a bad frame of mind nowadays that we don’t want to confuse them with any extra information they don’t need or want.

This does extend to actual products as well. I was reading the bottle for Minute Maid Pure Pressed Simply Apple and much to my surprise, there was none. Just apples. Wait a minute. Where’s my polysorbate 80 and yellow dye #5? And no carnuba wax? How are my kids going to get that showroom shine I yearn for?

Simple is obviously better and since no one can afford or wants to pay for organics anymore, mainstream vendors are jumping on the natural bandwagon. I say it’s good for the vendor and really great for the consumer.

Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

We’ve talked in this column before about consumer desire for simplicity, whether it be in product ingredients or the number of types of toothpaste sold in a store. Times are tough and complicated. Consumers are short on time, yet they desire to feed their families healthy meals. They do not want to spend minutes studying the ingredients in a food product, so they equate the number of ingredients, especially when many might be chemicals, with being less healthy.

Brand managers and retailers should take note. Do we really need all of the line extensions and ingredients in each category and product?

Anne Howe
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

The trend toward simple has been in place for years. What’s interesting is that during the recession, as many more people had to make do with less, they found simplicity to be refreshing. As a result, consumers continue to seek ways to pare down and simplify for the long haul. Boomers, formerly known as the lifeblood of an over-consumption economy, have actually worked harder to pare down, with a wary eye on a long life expectancy with nearly a 40% reduction in assets.

And many Millennials, ever-so-aware of parental stress, have chosen to start to stay simple and more natural, with a conscious and mindful eye on health, wellness, and protecting the environment.

Combined, these two big segments of the population will continue to drive people to work at living more simply and more naturally. This will have an enormous impact on the economy and retail sales, resulting in a protracted period of slow growth and fundamental consumption pattern changes that will impact our country for decades to come.

Lee Peterson
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

Clearly, during our latest retail and real estate run-up (over stored, over malled, over stocked, over sold), the messaging became more and more complex in a jungle of ‘too much’. Just look at a news channel now; it’s almost impossible to read. Check out a big box store or a grocery store, laden with too many SKUs to even count; disasters of poor merchandising strategies. It’s easy to see why, given all that, simple really cuts through.

A mentor of mine once told me, “if you want to find the next trend, just look at the opposite of what’s going on now” and I believe that’s the case once again for simplicity.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
11 years 6 months ago

Less is more moving forward, but that is only part of the story. The key after reducing the number of ingredients is making sure you have the right ones. For example, having five ingredients is good unless one is high fructose corn syrup. I am still puzzled why so many breads contain high fructose corn syrup. Example: My wife and I only purchase bread that does not contain High Fructose Corn Syrup (the options are surprisingly limited).

There is usually never a silver bullet to making something great but several parts that build the perfect solution (product). Fewer ingredients is a good start. Have the ‘right’ fewer ingredients is a great start.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 6 months ago
With food, it is not a matter of fewer ingredients. It is a matter of ingredients that one can understand. There is clearly a move away from foods developed in the chemistry lab to real foods. David Kessler writes that today, food is designed not for nutrition but to appeal to certain parts of our brains that signal pleasure to our bodies. It is the same part of our brain that is satisfied by smoking and illegal drugs. Today, food is engineered, it isn’t just produced. Though the makers shout healthy on the front of the package, the ingredients in small type say something else. Fortunately, the FDA is taking that problem on. Anything prepared and packaged in a factory can be made at home with far fewer ingredients. Each of those ingredients would be natural and pronounceable. The consumer uses this knowledge to make choices in the store. Why do I need high fructose corn syrup in my bread? With regard to the broader life style, there is a trend toward simplicity, but don’t… Read more »
Mike Romano
Guest
Mike Romano
11 years 6 months ago

Offer less, charge more. I love capitalism!

Justin Time
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

Yes, pure ingredients and simple, honest packaging is what sells products today.

Private label is especially grasping the power that this idea has in luring customers to their products and is the key to increased, permanent sales.

Take for instance Via Roma authentic Italian products, developed for and sold exclusively by Great A&P family of banner supermarkets. The packaging is so inviting that you feel like you are in Tuscany, enjoying the many fine pastas, pasta sauces, take and bake pizzas, and fine imported Italian cheeses.

Likewise, the simplicity of GreenWay Organic ingredients is comforting to consumers’ sensibilities. The bright green GreenWay symbol on simple white background packaging assures them of the highest quality organic products whether it be in poultry, produce, dairy, vegetables, pasta, center store cleaning, soaps, and/or paper products.

I think the consumer today is searching for pure foods and quality household products that are clean, simple and inexpensive.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
11 years 6 months ago

I don’t agree with the argument that consumers want fewer ingredients in their food and “fewer buttons on their TV.” It simply isn’t borne out in real life and there are any number of examples pointing the other way. Think of the number of controls on game consoles, the number of features on mobile phones and computers, the parts and options on cars, the ingredients in building a tire, the types and mixes in supermarket salads, and the number of toppings on a pizza. I subscribe to DirecTV and the options seem to increase exponentially – apparently due to consumer research.

We must also consider the impact of big-gov intervention into our daily diets. Common wisdom is that the FDA is clueless and has harmed our food system more than helped it. Their regulations have forced much of the “fewer ingredients” developments – which have never been proved to be beneficial – and which were government-driven rather than consumer-driven.

In other words, there simply isn’t a “demand for products with fewer ingredients.”

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
11 years 6 months ago
In the food category, a variety of factors are motivating the desire for more simple products, e.g. personal health, food safety, the desire for organic, the desire for local product, and wrap rage. And that desire does extend to goods outside the food category, e.g. Tide Basic, Charmin Basic and Bounty Basic. That said, what interests me about this discussion item is whether the desire for simplicity impacts store environments. I think it does, especially when grocery shopping. Grocery shopping is often viewed as more a chore than a pleasure. And already time-starved lifestyles are becoming more time pressed thanks to the need to do more at-home planning before getting to the local grocer, in large part to save money. The express format (small footprint store) is one way simplicity is coming to retail design–think Fresh & Easy and Marketside. Self-checkout is another example of creating a more simple experience for those consumers who don’t mind scanning and bagging. The entire Aldi offering could be viewed as simplicity. Mobile commerce/marketing is also helping to streamline… Read more »
Yaakov Labowitz
Guest
Yaakov Labowitz
11 years 6 months ago

There is a distinct difference between having “more” in terms of external options in any given product line, and having “more” in terms of overload and confusion within one product.

While it is true that many consumers want more options, they want chosen options. Complex and complicated ingredients, on the other hand, do not give more options to the consumer in any given field. So for example, it is not a contradiction that there is a proliferation of product while demand still remains for simpler products.

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