The Secret To Marketing Packaged Foods

It's what goes into packaged foods that seems to matter the most
It’s what goes into packaged foods that seems to matter the most
Image Credit: alsis35 (now at ipernity)

I can only speak for myself, but when I go food shopping I’m on a mission. I find what I’m looking for, I put it in my cart, I check out, and then I’m done. It turns out that the world is filled with a lot of people who shop differently than I do. These people actually take the time to look at what they are buying. More specifically, they look at the list of ingredients that goes into what they are buying. If it’s too long, then they won’t buy it. What this means for packaged food product managers is that they now have to find ways to change their product development definition and make their list of ingredients shorter.

The Need To Shorten The List Of Ingredients

The goal for packaged food product managers is to attempt to get their product’s list of ingredients to be as short as possible. At a number of different firms such as Hershey, ConAgra, and General Mills product managers are busy working to shrink their lists. Example of what they have been able to achieve include snack bars that are now able to boost that they contain only fruit and tortilla chips that can list their ingredients as being corn, salt, and sunflower oil. Now that’s something that you can add to your product manager resume.

As the list of ingredients that go into a product gets shorter, the product managers now have an opportunity to move the list of ingredients from the back of the product’s packaging to the front of the product’s packaging. The reason that the product managers are going to all of this effort is because their customers care deeply about what goes into the products that they are going to be eating. Customers are now insisting that they recognize the ingredients that go into a product. What people want is for the things that go into their products to be the same as the things that would be found in a typical kitchen. In order to achieve this, customers are willing to live with products that have some additional sugar and fat.

The goal for product managers is to limit the number of ingredients that go into their products so that their customers can count them on their hands. No more than 10 ingredients is the goal. Studies have shown that 87% of customers look at food nutrition labels and 67% of them stated that they prefer products that have both fewer and simpler ingredients. The goal for packaged food product managers is to attempt to offer more transparency about their foods via their list of ingredients.

The Benefits Of A Short List

Product managers realize that there are some ingredients that will be an instant turn off for many customers. An example of one of these is high fructose corn syrup. That’s why they are currently experimenting with a number of different products that that can use to substitute for these ingredients. If a product manager can come up with a product that consists of simpler ingredients in nice packaging, then they can probably charge a higher price for it.

All of this movement to simpler ingredients means that a number of ingredients are being dropped. What a lot of consumers don’t realize is that those ingredients actually play an important role in how the current product behaves. An example of this would be salad dressings that have had their preservatives and emulsifiers removed. What customers are going to discover is that the product will now coagulate in the refrigerator. When this happens, customers may stop buying the product.

Not all products with shorter lists of ingredients are going to be a success. Haagen-Dazs created an ice cream that contained only 5 ingredients. However, this product eventually failed. The reason for its failure was because Haagen-Dazes customers are seeking an indulgence and the lower fat content of the product that only had 5 ingredients was not popular with customers.

What All Of This Means For You

Product managers of packaged foods have come to learn that their customers really do care about what ingredients go into the foods that they are eating. What this means for the product managers is that their customers want shorter lists of ingredients and they want to be able to understand everything that is on the list.

Product managers at major food manufactures are currently in the process of using their product manager job description to try to shrink the list of ingredients that go into their products. The list of ingredients that go into a product is now moving from the back of the packaging to the front of the packaging. Customers want to be able to recognize everything that goes into their food. The goal for product managers is to try to limit the number of ingredients that go into a packaged food product to no more than 10. Ingredients that customers don’t like are being dropped. However, when some ingredients are removed, it can affect how the product behaves. Customers may not like the new product with fewer ingredients.

Packaged food product managers have a real challenge on their hands. Their customers are telling them loud and clear that what they want is a shorter list of ingredients to go into the packaged foods that they are buying. However, they still want their foods to have the same taste and texture that they currently have. Product managers are going to have to get creative and find ways to deliver the same products to their customers; however, now they can only use 10 or fewer ingredients!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What should a product manager do if they have to use an ingredient that their customers are not going to recognize?

Click here to get automatic updates when
The Accidental Product Manager Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you are a product manager working in the field of retail goods, there is one word that should strike fear in your heart: Amazon. Retailers like Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, and Kohl’s have all been reporting decreased sales and the culprit is Amazon. They are all losing customers to the online giant. It turns out that in the world of retail, there is one area that has a product development definition that is still safe from the juggernaut that is Amazon: home repair.