Identifying the optimum product
A manufacturer of children's powdered milks was looking to improve its product for the Asian market. There were a number of key competitors and the client was looking to maximise the appeal of its milk to core customers as well as to identify routes to target the competition.
This project was driven jointly by both NPD and Marketing departments. Conclusions were needed that would not only identify opportunities and guide future product development but would also provide valuable market analysis, and guide product positioning, brand communication and strategy.
Our solution measured the appeal of the client's milk alongside competitors and a range of development samples. Recognising that the Mother is the primary gate- keeper, research was designed to take account of her and her child's opinion whilst also allowing us to segment both children and mothers into groups based on their liking for the milks. The approach would also allow us to define the positive and negative characteristics of milk for each group of consumers.
What We Did
With our client we selected 14 milks representing the range available in the market and including some development prototypes that introduced slightly different nuances of flavour and mouthfeel. Research was carried out in Indonesia, the Philippines and three areas of China, these being the target markets. In each location, we asked 150 children, (6-8 years) to rate their liking for each milk. Separately, we asked their mums to rate how much they thought their child would like each milk. In addition we used our trained sensory panels to evaluate the sensory characteristics of the 14 milks using Descriptive Sensory Profiling which gave a detailed picture of the aroma, flavour, mouthfeel and aftertaste characteristics of each.
What We Found
Using the consumer liking data we produced maps of the powdered milks based on the actual and predicted preferences of children in each location. Segmentation analysis revealed groups of children and of mothers with different flavour preferences. Interestingly however, there were a number of similarities between the groupings across the three countries.
By combining the sensory data with the consumer groupings we were able to identify the product attributes that were really appealing to each group of consumers, and also the attributes that had a negative impact on preference. We also identified consumer segments that were not satisfied by any of the existing products and were able to model the profile of their ideal milk.
Guided by the target profiles, the client went on to optimise the flavour of its core product with a resultant increase in market share. It also capitalised on the opportunities identified by the segmentation analysis to extend its product range. The study had a further benefit. We observed that the overall response of the Mothers was a reasonable predictor of the preference of the children. We went on to research the potential of this finding when applied to younger children and presented the paper at Pangborn 2011.