A new product launch in the nutrition beverage category is always exciting and can be nerve racking whether it is a large brand like Ensure® or a small food entrepreneur such as Momma Lenas or DRY Sodas.
When pitching the retailer buyer, the decision to give a food brand shelf space does NOT rest only a product that tastes great. It is supported with a compelling case to illustrate how a brand addresses the Merchant side of the equation and the Marketing support side of the equation. In other words you have to be able to convince the buyer to give you shelf space and explain how you will get your brand flying off the shelf and into the consumers shopping cart.
I interviewed Sondra Miller, Division Vice President, Therapeutic Marketing at Abbott, about the product launch of Ensure Clear™, a new Nutritional Beverage in a clear form vs. the classical shake you may be familiar with. The company says it is a refreshing drink in juice-like inspired flavors with the same protein, vitamin and mineral benefits as the classic shakes.
So let's look at their Pre-Launch and Launch plans and at the end of this article I will show you how you can Borrow, Adapt and Adopt executable New Product Launch plans for any Artisan, Local or Specialty Food brands.
Today, Ensure is the leading adult oral nutrition supplement brand in the U.S. The brand has traditionally offered a variety of targeted nutrition shakes to support adults' dietary needs. "With the growing popularity of flavored waters and drinks, we knew we needed to diversify outside of shakes," said Miller. "Ensure Clear is our first non-shake product designed to serve two purposes: to give existing consumers a new, refreshing drink option and bring new consumers into the category."
To meet sell-in timelines to retailers and communicate the unique attributes of Ensure Clear, Miller shared that they developed a pre-launch strategy to ramp up to a national campaign. Their strategy included a pre-seeding initiative where the business case was presented to retailers six months prior to launch to address considerations of shelf space, build awareness for the new products and gain secondary distribution.
What is a business case?
To illustrate the business case to retailers, the Ensure team shared the findings of their market research to demonstrate the unmet need of consumers and the market opportunity.
The need for the product was being driven by the growth of the oral nutrition supplement category and the fact that in 2011, the oldest of America's 78 million baby boomers started turning 65. The graying of America's largest generation is having significant impact, especially as boomers enter retirement. Boomers are redefining the "golden years" with their desire to stay active, independent and in control of their health. According to Miller, this demographic is motivated to seek solutions that can help them get and stay healthy.
A growing older population and increases in chronic disease, has brought the importance of nutrition to the forefront. "Many people don't realize that today 1 out of 3 patients enter the hospital malnourished," she said. "After managing health setbacks including surgery and illness, these patients leave the hospital to manage their recovery at home. In doing so, nutrition becomes a paramount part of getting back to daily living."
With retailers, the Ensure team brought this story to life. The brand shared that when pitching a retailer for shelf space, one should go in with the mindset that you have to prove your product deserves the space. Demonstrate your commitment to continually optimizing your product portfolio and supporting launches with the necessary marketing and promotional support to drive shoppers to the store.