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Innovation puts a positive spin on discount

By Xavier Terlet, (XTC world innovation), 03/2015

The recession has restored something in consumers that was seemingly lost: the faculty of judgment.

Consumers continue to look for the lowest price, regardless of their social and professional profile. Yet they are still concerned about pleasure, health and the planet, and these concerns will only grow. The price-quality ratio has had its day in the sun. There’s only one way to lower prices any further, and that’s to lower quality. The declining performance of both discounters and entry-level products shows that these were a poor response to a real problem.
Today, consumers are calling the shots. Regardless of their purchasing power, they can choose a slightly pricier product that will maximize the pleasure they seek in their day-to-day lives, especially in the current economic crisis. Conversely, they can purchase a cheaper product from another aisle and, generally speaking, will try to optimize their purchases and how they are used. In that light, helping consumers do better with less is key to innovation success.
Some people are still stunned by the resounding success of cooking shows and workshops, and the obscenely strong sales of culinary magazines. Consumers have returned to cooking, simply because they derive pleasure from doing it themselves, at the best price, while controlling what ends up on their plate. It’s pleasure, health and discounts all rolled into one.

A dish consumers can prepare or assemble themselves is a source of personal fulfilment. They’ve moved from “Make it for me!” to “Help me prepare it well!” But too many food manufacturers haven’t understood that yet.

Smaller portions are also a lever that can potentially put a positive spin on a product and boost its value. An 80 g (2.8 oz) hamburger patty, instead of the typical 100 g (3.5 oz) portion, could basically be positioned as the perfect size for small appetites or to avoid waste.

How’s that for another way to put a positive spin on consumption: the war against waste! The logic is simple: any wasted product, regardless of price, is a product we paid too much for. So it’s time for manufacturers to add value to products by helping consumers opt for the “right size.” There’s a great deal to be done in this area. Given that, is there any point in perpetuating the existence of oversize packages falsely described as economical? Those “buy 2, get 1 free” packs and other promotions from a bygone era encourage consumers to buy more, while penalizing single-person households.

Favoring producer-to-consumer schemes, encouraging local purchasing, focusing on seasonality and reducing packaging all make it possible to lower the cost of food while adding value to our products. That’s the whole paradox of this ongoing recession we’ve slid into, this “changing world” as Michel Serres put it. We’re going to need new solutions that add value and save consumers money. Manufacturers who don’t start looking for these solutions now are risking a lot. Will those who fail still blame it on the economy?

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