Spotlight on the customer

InnovateFood is done. Two days filled us with new insights and inspiration. Solutions for six company challenges were suggested, four keynotes held, but what did we learn?

On the 31th August and the 1st September, Danish Food Cluster proposed the InnovateFood Challenge: How can we meet the demand from consumers for better and healthier food?

The two days were packed with innovation and knowledge sharing, as solutions were proposed by both experts and student to the six different company challenges. Moreover, inspiring talks on technology, retail, design and sustainability focused on the food industry were held. But what is the overall takeaway from the event?

A recurring theme in the event is the spotlight on the customer, and here three key points were:

Know your target group: 

As a business, we must always work with our customer in mind. We need to know our target group or target groups, their needs and desires, so we know, how we can fulfil these. Therefore, thorough research on the customer is very valuable.

The good story:

When selling new and innovative food products, you will often be dealing with a more or less sceptic customer. Therefore, you need to know the good story of your product or company. For instance, why the customer should be eating insects even though the cultural trend says NO.

Rebranding, branding and more branding: 

What is the point of having a good story or a fantastic healthy food product, if the customer is not aware of the unique selling point? If you want your customer to become aware, remember and also act upon your new unique selling point, you need to invest resources in branding and marketing.

Read about the conclusions of the six company challenges below.

Sum-up of the keynotes: 

All in all the keynote speakers all accentuated the focus on the customer as our job is to fulfil human needs, whether we are talking about retail, design, technology or sustainability.

Leah Zhang, International Business Development at Alibaba Group talked about how to sell food to the Chinese consumer. Leah accentuated a focus on understanding your customer, as we need to understand the consumer culture, how to reach the customer through the right sales channels, understand the their eating habits, and how to sell your brand to the customer through storytelling.

Trevor Davis, Global Subject Expert and Consumer Products from IBM enlightened us on how far technology has come within food innovation, and how technology is the tool to help us understand the consumer and accommodate the consumers’ needs. Examples of technologies are big data, internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Hanne Søndergaard, Executive Vice President, Marketing & Innovation at Arla Foods talked about the consumers expectations to sustainability, and how we as consumers have become alienated from the food that we eat. This has caused challenges for the industry, which demands for new solutions. Moreover, a final key point from Hanne was that we should not always focus on producing more but instead on wasting less.

Martin Delfer, Global Head of Strategic Alliances at Designit, pointed out that great design solutions must take point of departure in the consumers’ needs. The food industry takes its point of departure in I what is technically possible, but the industry needs to be more consumer centric, think about the current consumers’ needs, where the consumer is heading, and develop food innovation based on this.

Arla: How to secure the relevance of dairy in the sustainable diets of the future?

The experts on the challenge were:

  • Anna-Karin Modin Edman, Sustainability Manager, Arla Foods (case presenter)
  • John Erik Hermansen, Agricultural Systems and Sustainability, Aarhus University
  • Merete Myrup Christensen, Director of Dairy Nutrition, Danish Agriculture and Food Council
  • Bent Egberg Mikkelsen, Professor, Aalborg University

During their presentation and the following debate these were some of the key points:

  • The significant global increase in demand for milk and livestock protein put enormous pressure on land use and environmental impact, and that we should develop milk production based on feed resources not competing with human food.
  • Dairy products are healthy in many ways and contains essential vitamins and minerals. Moreover, dairy products are part of officially recommended diets in many countries globally.
  • A marketing effort using modern IT solutions may be used to inform consumers on potential benefits of dairy products.

Tulip/ DC Ingredients: How can we develop high protein meat and savoury snacks for children?

The experts on the challenge were:

  • Tina Roed Garza, Senior Manager of Global Category, Tulip (case presenter)
  • Morten Hoffmann Kyed, Director of Technical Sales, Danish Crown Ingredients (case presenter)
  • Ursula Nana Kehlet, Consultant in Human Nutrition, Danish Meat Research Institute
  • Line Ahm Mielby, Post Doc in Sensory and Consumer Science, Department of Food Science, Aarhus University. 
  • Alice Grønhøj, Associate Professor, Department of Management,Bartholin, Aarhus University.
  • Lars Holm, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen

During their presentation and the following debate these were some of the key points:

  • During a day, most people have an unstable protein balance, but the protein snack product will secure a stabile protein balance during the entire day.
  • Tulip/ DC Ingredients have a unique products, since the hydrolysed meat protein is ingested much faster in the body compared to regular meat protein.
  • Tulip/ DC Ingredients should consider their target group in the child segment, since the 3-8 year olds suffers from neophobia, which means that they don’t want to try new products, and therefore is a difficult group to target this new product.
  • As part of their marketing effort, they should consider the fact that the parents want it healthy and the children want it tasty.

Fermentationexperts: How can we make a business plan for a start-up company focusing on improving intestinal health for humans?

The experts on the challenge were:

  • Søren Kjærulff, CTO, Fermentationexperts (case presenter)
  • Polymeros Chrysochou, Associate Professor in Marketing and Consumer Behavior at MAPP Centre and the Department of Management
  • Lars Karnøe, Senior Counsel, Law Firm Bird & Bird

During their presentation and the following debate these were some of the key points:

  • It is very important that Fermentationsexperts considers where they stand from a legal perspective, as their products is in some kind of grey-zone. They need to be very clear on which of the following segments they are in: pharmaceutical, foodstuff with a particular pharmaceutical effect or novel food, as this entails specific rules on how and what they can communicate.
  • Fermentationsexperts has gone from making feed to animals to making food products to humans. Therefore, from a marketing perspective a product extension is not recommended. They should start a new company, so they won’t be associated with producing feed to animals.
  • Moreover, it was recommended that Fermentationsexperts don’t address a niche B2C marked, which was first considered, but instead address a much wider market with both a B2C and B2B approach.

inVALUABLE: How can we generate new and sustainable sources of high-quality food with protein from insects to meet the future protein demand?

The experts on the challenge were:

  • Lars Henrik Lau Heckman, Technology Manager, PhD, Teknologisk Institut (case presenter)
  • Andreas Lieberoth, Assistant Professor, DPU, AU
  • Massimo Reverberi, Owner, Bugsolutely
  • Hanne Boskov Hansen, Special Advisor, FVST

During their presentation and the following debate these were some of the key points:

  • The legislation is a problem in regards to selling insect products, but it is possible.
  • The problem with getting people to eat insects is cultural. It’s a cultural trend that we dont eat it. Therefore, it is a new cultural trend that needs to be established.
  • inVALUABLE should rebrand eating insects. They need to tell the good story about eating insects – that it is both healthy and sustainable.
  • In general they need to put an effort into marketing in order to turn the cultural trend around.

Chr. Hansen: How can awareness and acceptance of bacteria to fight food waste be enhanced?

The experts on the challenge were:

  • Christoffer Lorenzen, Executive Vice President, Chr. Hansen (case presenter)
  • Dieter Elsser-Gravesen, Managing Director, ISI Food Protection
  • Liisa Lähteenmäki, Professor, Aarhus University
  • Dr Siet Sijtsema, Wageningen University and Research, Consumer Researcher, Food and Innovation

During their presentation and the following debate these were some of the key points:

  • We already eat a lot of bacteria, but the problem is to distinguish between the good, the bad and the ugly.
  • Chr. Hansen needs to understand motivations and barriers for longer shelf life across the entire value chain (consumers, retailers, manufacturers).
  • They need to understand the consumers and be aware of the different target groups among the consumers.
  • How much we trust our senses determine, if we keep the food after the shellfire date has expired.
  • Technology can be a very important driver for reducing food waste, but consumers must not be forgotten.

KMC: How can we bring potato-based products solutions to global markets where access to nutrition is in high demand or naturally limited?

The experts on the challenge were:

  • Thomas Hannibal, Senior Application Development Manager, KMC (case presenter)
  • Helle Nygaard Lærke, Senior Researcher, Aarhus University
  • Mads Peter Olsen, Managing Director, GroupM Aarhus

During their presentation and the following debate these were some of the key points:

  • Product specifics of potato fibres are complex. Potato fibre is a complex mix of different chemical structures, therefore, functionality and impact on health will depend on the fibre product. The fibres are good for us, but they work in a very complex way, which is important to be aware of.
  • Few consumers are actually interested in nutrition, but interest in gut health is increasing.
  • KMC should move up the value chain, and sell their product directly to the end-consumer.
  • However a great marketing effort is required, as KMC should position themselves as a trusted leader within gut health. They need to create awareness towards and understanding of the value of gut health.

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