Get into the Consumer’s Mind with Design Thinking

Get into the Consumer’s Mind with Design Thinking

Denis Storey
September 15, 2021

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New products remain key revenue drivers for food and beverage companies. Yet, after hitting an all-time high in 2016, the number of new product launches has leveled off at an average of about 20,000 annually, according to the latest data from Mintel’s Global New Product Database. Beverages, snacks, and sauces, and seasonings make up nearly 42% of new offerings.

And food and beverage companies continue to embrace innovation as part of doing business. More than two-thirds of CEOs in a recent KPMG survey said they planned to “increase investment in disruption detection and innovation processes.”

Unfortunately, less than 20% of new products survive the first couple of years. So, what’s the best approach to leveraging innovation in planning new product launches? One solution is to try design thinking.

Design Thinking

According to the Interaction Design Foundation, design thinking is a “non-linear, iterative process” teams can employ to understand customers better, challenge longstanding assumptions, redefine problems, and build new ways to solutions to prototype and test. Involving five phases — empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test — it is most beneficial to tackle problems that are ill-defined or unknown.”

This historically entrepreneurial approach to challenges has been gaining traction in corporate circles lately as a viable alternative to new product development, according to Susan Mayer, MS CFS, Food & Ag. Sector Lead at RTI Innovation Advisors.

“When big companies say they want to take a more entrepreneurial approach to launching new products,” Mayer says, “what they really mean is that they want to employ design thinking.”

Mayer says that companies that want to try this must change their perception of risk, get beyond the traditional “stage-gate” process, and embrace iterative innovation.

In design thinking, companies must abandon the sequential review of design by stages and adopt a mindset that allows R&D to learn more about what the design could be after each test.

As a result, Mayer adds that design thinking isn’t necessarily for every company. Embracing the iterative process and truly believing that the value of testing is learning more about how to match the product offering with consumer’s needs, rather than it is to estimate market share or purchase intent of that formulation will face lots of push-back in most organizations.

“It works best if it works for everyone in the organization,” Mayer says.

What’s NEXT?

A human-centered design perspective makes all the difference in innovation – it improves the new product development process and helps give birth to products with staying power. Find out how to bring these concepts to life by watching Mayer’s session. To hear more of her presentation, check out NEXT on-demand here.