Kerry’s consumer insights division connects the dots between new and proprietary market research to make product and technology recommendations
Food and beverage market research is increasingly driving industry decisions, and there’s a surplus of such information available. But studying sales figures and surveying consumers is only a piece of trend prediction. A more holistic approach is needed to fully understand consumer wants and create actionable insights and proactive solutions for food brands.
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Kerry’s consumer insights team analyzes research, teases out less obvious observations and gathers new information to find market gaps and make recommendations on untapped opportunities. We sat down with Soumya Nair, director of marketing insights for Kerry North America, to learn how brands can better use food and beverage market research to innovate on-trend products.
KerryDigest: How does Kerry’s approach to consumer insights differ from other companies?
Soumya Nair: Although most businesses get consumer information from the widely available data collection groups, we found that there were still many unanswered questions in the marketplace. To address this, we’ve been tackling a lot of bespoke research that addresses topics such as trending ingredients, consumer priorities or what’s changing in consumer purchasing habits. These are the types of findings you wouldn’t get from a more general source.
KD: Can you talk about how these new insights are mined?
SN: From social media to IBM Watson to point of sale data, we have and use almost every conceivable tool to collect our data. There’s not really an insights engine—it’s a human approach through the synthesis of all of the information we collect. Observations are created by machines—insights are created by people.
KD: What are some of the shortcomings of traditional consumer insights research?
SN: Data tends to masquerade as insights, which isn’t correct. To avoid that, we have been focusing on storytelling and trying to define consumer motivations then working toward a solution. We’re challenging ourselves to take things a beat further than data collection and really focus on the growth drivers—what we truly believe in as being a consumer-led change. This is helping us define what our development teams do behind the scenes and pioneering growth in the industry.
It’s also important to understand that there’s often a difference between a consumer-stated opinion and what consumers actually do. For example, with clean label, consumers may say one thing but make purchases that indicate something else. Over last few years, consumers have been increasingly living what they speak. Many of the concepts they talk about—eating clean, thinking of food as medicine—are areas where they’re putting their money where mouth is, which is new. But only research can tell us which ideas are aspirational and which are actually spurring action.
KD: What is a recent area of focus for Kerry North America’s consumer insights team?
SN: Everyone in the industry is talking about delivery, including new technologies and the influx of delivery companies. We know people are open to foodservice delivery, and they want more of it. But nobody wants to talk about the implication on the food.
From the start we could see there were consumer pain points. Average delivery time in an urban area—from time of order to cooking to getting through traffic—is around 41 minutes. In that time, temperature, texture, crunch—all of it changes. We were curious if dissatisfaction with the final product was influencing the type of food people were ordering for delivery, or if it might start to.
So we asked consumers what they wanted, and how satisfied they were with what was delivered to them. We wanted to know if there were gap areas where consumer expectations aren’t being met. We found that many people were getting chicken fingers and poultry products, but there were gaps in expectations. We brought this information—which we included in the white paper “Out for Delivery: New Opportunities for the Foodservice Industry”—to our internal teams and customers, who were then able to execute on products designed to ensure that when poultry is delivered, it meets expectations.
KD: What recent finding was surprising?
SN: Proactive health has been another big area of focus. Research suggests that around 69% of consumers want functional benefits, and we know that a number of ingredients can improve everything from mood to gut health. But our question was, what ingredients do consumers actually perceive as being functional? Using the research that went into our paper, “Proactive Health: Consumer Demand for Functional Benefits” we put together a list of five actionable ingredients across 11 desired benefits. This provides food brands with tactical information that can be used to design products. Some of the choices weren’t the most obvious or necessarily the healthiest.
KD: What’s next for your team?
SN: We’re launching the North America KerryCompass, which is a strategic way to look at consumer trends across all applications. We’re also continuing to work on our Kerry Taste Charts—noting not just the flavors that are important, but also what is driving flavor and how consumers want flavors included, such as through syrups or bitters. With our work we’re trying to get to tactical insights. This isn’t just storytelling—we want to deliver actionable items.
To access some of our recent research and reports, visit our Resources section. To learn more about partnering with Kerry, including how to access proprietary consumer insights for your area of business, contact us.