Interview with Matt Duffy, Director of Marketing at Nonni's Foods
How is product development able to focus on really innovative products? How are you keeping ahead of the trends?
We start by looking out at the Specialty Food Retail segment and talk to our current and potential consumers. We are always sharing ideas to uncover new insights. How the food industry evolved… specialty artisan and mass market snack bakers… we live in the middle. We are nimble and our product launches to bring Early Adopters ahead of trend.
I have all of my Foodpreneur clients do research by driving around. So how about Nonnis?
Channels like Whole Foods or other natural foods stores… this is where we go and look for products ( Research by Driving Around ). Banners like these have created more awareness of better foods… so search for products at these channels and then develop products for more traditional grocery channel.
Club store are strong business for our brand, since they always want something new and different. Developing product for them is like a testing ground for new product launches into more grocers like Giant Eagle, Stop and Shop, Safeway and Krogers.
It is how we approach things and where we live in the food and beverage… faster than Kraft and P&G.
The power of things shifted from brands to retailers and need to be more flexible in designing promotions and products.
How are you talking to consumers?
We still do some traditional focus groups. One of our partners developed a process extracting consumer feedback which incorporate into our final marketing platform. It is sort of a hybrid of our internal brainstorming and what our core consumers are saying.
How are you using social media for new product development?
(Dom -many companies are crowdsourcing for new product development ).
We leverage our Facebook fan base… for example we just finished polling for a new line of flavors for launch in 2014. Internally we indentified fruit is not normally in biscotti's and we saw product differentiation to develop and launch biscotti's with fruit and nuts.
We engaged with our fans and over 1000 gave us flavor feedback as well as some new toppings.
Rather than ask basic questions our team go creative with questions that were fun yet would give us insights… so for example we posed a question "If you were to share a biscotti flavor with a celebrity, which one would you choose."
Did you find any surprises in Nonni's product launch of mini-desserts?
Good question… we found consumer's desire for indulgence was greater in a mini vs. full size form. Our initial product positioning translated our best sellers into mini biscotti's and found some flavors did not take off. From this we created mini biscotti product positioning of greater indulgence (giving "permission" to indulge) and that was what the consumers wanted.
The mini dessert trend taught us that we needed to rework the Biscotti Bites packaging to be substantially differentiated from our regular size line. Sales are trending such that the mini line could overtake the main line. For example our sales breakdown for Nonni's in the traditional grocery channel is 25% Biscotti Bites vs. 75% for long biscotti's. In the club channel we are trending faster… our Biscotti Bites are comparable in sales to the long biscotti regular line.
Packaging is the single most important marketing communications vehicle for food brands. Since packaging is way more than a pretty picture, how do you go about developing packaging that consistently delivers your brand positioning?
Our category is much more of an impulse purchase. We enhance packaging every 2 to 3 years to insure it is maintaining presence on the grocery shelf. Also our brand is more on the contemporary side of snack food so we want our packaging to be contemporary…. not dated or old fashioned.