Learning from Supermarket Superstar

Okay, one of my guilty pleasures is watching tv.  And, if I were to tell the truth, I am kind of a reality television junkie.  One of the new shows that I have a secret love for is Lifetime’s Supermarket Superstar.  I will be the first to say that the show is only mildly interesting as far as production value.  But I enjoy the show because it talks a lot about what goes on behind the scene in marketing a food product.

The aisle of everything

Let me give you an overview of the show.  Each week, the show focuses on a single food category (e.g. snacks, dips, etc.)  Three home cooks are selected as finalist for each episode.  The show kicks off with introduction of these three home cooks and their products.  Then, the contestants take the first steps toward preparing their products for mass production.  The first step is to revamp the recipe, taking into account nutritional value, shelf life, and price.  I enjoy watching this section because it highlights the business behind the creativity of birthing a new product that is commercially viable.  The best product won’t get bought if it’s at a ridiculous retail price.  And the price needs to capture raw materials, labor, transportation, margins, etc.  Another topics that is often discussed is uniformity.  Consumers need to know what they are getting from one purchase to another.  All the products need to uniform.  They all need to meet the same expectations.

After revamping the recipe for commercial reality, the products are taste tested by a focus group.  This section highlights the market research behind each new product launch.  This section highlights the importance of making sure you’re appealing to your core consumers.  This section highlights that during the new product development process, it’s important to continue to get consumer feedback every step of the way.  Of course, the show only features a single focus group of six consumers.  In the real world, there is probably a lot more research involving a lot more consumers.

The next step toward making a commercial product is branding.  This section showcases the importance of a well designed logo and packaging.  The packaging is a product’s final chance to close the deal.  This section is filled with sound bites of wisdoms.  For example, apparently, there are over 48,000 products on the shelves at an average grocery store.  So, it’s a very clutter environment for any single product to stand out.  That’s why a lot of thoughts is behind a well-designed packaging.  This section highlights the principal of shelf-evident positioning.  The product needs to sell itself on a grocery shelf.  At that moment, on shelf, the packaging is your only mean of communication.  The idea behind shelf-evident proposition is that the packaging should speak for itself on shelf.  The selling proposition should be evident at shelf, without additional education.  A consumer walks by the shelf, walks by your product, and gets it.  A consumer, just by what you communicate on your packaging, understands why he or she would want to buy this product.  To this point, the packaging needs to clearly communicate your single point of difference.  For example, Reddi-Whip is “made with real cream” and the packaging is designed to draw your eyes to that point of difference.  This is when less is more.  your packaging should communicate a single message.  Otherwise, the packaging gets too busy and confusing.  When the packaging gets confusing, a consumer would just walk right by.  



The final step toward commercializing the product is to pitch it to a buyer.  This shows how hard it is to be a brand manager.  All the hard work toward getting a new product development hinges on the balance based on a buyer’s decision.  All the hard work may never see the light of day if it can’t get past the gatekeeper and get on shelf.  The buyer often asks good questions.  Where do you expect the product to be shelved?  Why do you think you’re different from what’s already on shelf?  Is there growth potential, or is this a one-hit wonder that will get lost in the clutter?  This part of the show really highlight that there are always multiple stakeholders.  We need to design a product for the consumer.  However, we need to also design a product for the retailer. 

It’s an interesting show.  I enjoy it. 


Photo credit: Jessica W, Jennifer Snyder


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