Ripe for Innovation

Twenty opportunities to turn your company into an innovation powerhouse

By
Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products

When we went to work on this feature, we made a list of the smartest people we know. Leading experts on c-stores, consumers, consumer packaged goods, foodservice and retail who could help us develop a list of the most innovative products to roll out in recent history, things that have shifted and shaped your plan-o-grams and P&Ls.

But what good is it to you to commemorate past innovations? Products such as liquid-water enhancers and cigar foil pouches are undoubtedly game changers, but nonetheless are already in the rearview mirror of innovation.

Instead, the conversations that really generated excitement from our roster of experts were the untapped opportunities—areas ripe for innovative products, marketing or retail experiences.

Your task is to shape the opportunities to your business.

So how do you seek out innovation? It rarely comes when you’re looking for it—and yet the marketplace, your competitors and your boss won’t wait for divine inspiration.

It’s often said that the most innovative products give people something they didn’t even know they wanted. But today’s consumer culture—social media, e-commerce, blurring of channel lines, customization—has made brands more reactionary.

“What’s really changing is the model of how innovation happens. There are some true innovations, but a lot of what the CPG companies are doing these days is really just emulation or product extension,” says Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash.

Sure, there’s a lot of innovation happening, says Demeritt, especially when it comes to food and drink. “But it’s really driven by consumers, and then the broader food culture—media, chefs on TV, restaurateurs. … CPG hasn’t quite caught up.” (Which is why we spend much of this article looking at food trends that translate to other categories and channels.)

Here’s where the opportunities come in. On the following pages are 20 opportunities for innovation—chances for manufacturers and retailers to meet new demands and maybe even surprise the consumer. Read on, and be inspired.

Capturing the Singleton
Just as retailers and manufacturers have ignored household opportunities by focusing on moms, so too have they missed the chance to capture the growing number of singletons.

According to 2010 U.S. Census data, only 51% of adults today are married, and 28% of all households now consist of just one person—the highest level in U.S. history. And it’s growing at a fast clip: That number has doubled since 1960.

Further fodder: Singletons aside, approximately 50% of adult eating occasions are alone, according to The Hartman Group.

“I don’t think CPG has done a great job of keeping up with that change,” says Demeritt of The Hartman Group. “People who live by themselves don’t just want a frozen entrée warmed up in the microwave every night for dinner.”

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