If you want your food processing company, restaurant, or other food-related business to succeed, you’ll need to innovate better food products. Of course, innovation is easy to speculate about and very difficult to execute. Not only will you have to come up with original ideas, but you’ll also need to design practices and connect with resources that allow you to help those original ideas come to light.
The Perks of Innovation
Why is innovation so important?
- Novelty. Innovation means creating something new, and people love new things. While many consumers are fine sticking with what they already know, most are always looking to try something new and different.
- Differentiation. Inventive new food products are a great way to distinguish your brand from your top competitors. With a delicious, unique dish or ingredient, you can instantly rise above your competition.
- Profitability. In some cases, innovation can lead to higher profitability. If you can figure out a way to make a greater volume of food for less money, or charge a higher price while retaining or increasing sales, you can improve your bottom line.
- Sustainability. You also have to consider food production and the environment. Innovation can lead you to more sustainable business practices, providing protections for the environment (as well as your local economy).
How to Innovate Better Food Products
Now let’s dig into the strategies you can use to innovate better food products for your business.
- Define “better.” Before you get started, it’s important to define what a “better” food product looks like. To do this, you’ll need to understand your target customers, your top competitors, and your overall business environment. Is a better food product one that provides top-of-the-line quality, even at a higher price? Or is it something cheaper and more portable? Is it something more sustainable? Or just something tastier overall? Obviously, you can pursue more than one goal simultaneously, but you have to have an idea of what “better” means before you can move forward.
- Start with an image. Begin with an abstraction – an image of what you want this food product to be. You don’t have to decide on what type of food it is or how it looks; instead, think about the branding. How do you want to position this food product? How is it going to look to your target customer? What are the feelings it’s meant to stir; for example, is it meant to conjure a feeling of cozy nostalgia? Or thrilling adventure?
- Choose the right partners. Food products are rarely innovated in a vacuum. If you want to succeed, you need to choose the right partners. A good food product partner will supply you with the best ingredients, help you design and test your food products, improve your sustainability, and possibly even help you distribute or market your food products.
- Invest in expertise and creativity. Hiring experts and creative minds can help you innovate much more reliably, so don’t be afraid to invest here. Consider employing or partnering with people who have years of industry experience and/or a track record of successful food product innovation. Pull ideas from your entire team and try to execute on the best ones you cultivate.
- Study other cultures. If you’re looking for a source of inspiration, consider looking at traditional foods from other cultures. Some of the most popular forms of cuisine in the United States originated as traditional meals from other countries that were eventually hybridized and reimagined as part of the American diet. You might discover a new ingredient or a new method of preparation that can serve as the catalyst for your imaginative new work.
- Study the competition. It’s also a good idea to study your top competitors. What are other companies like yours working on? What are some of the new products they’ve rolled out recently? Obviously, you don’t want to copy someone else’s tactics or innovations, but you can catch onto new trends early and/or find jumping-off points for your own ideas.
- Experiment. Make use of test marketing and focus groups to experiment with new products and put them to the test. You may love the idea of a new food product you’ve invented – but it won’t mean much if your audience doesn’t like it.
- Measure your results. Take the time to objectively measure your results. How do people respond to this product? What do they think about it? Are there elements of it that can be improved, and if so, how? Every test you run is a valuable learning opportunity, and you owe it to your business to remain adaptable.
Innovating food products is a creative exercise, so it’s difficult to force. But with the right environment, the right partners, and the right approach, you can come up with exciting new ideas that make your restaurant or food production company successful.