How to succeed in food product development using social listening

20-22_TrendingNow_SocialListening2Food preferences differ because of many different reasons – demographics, seasons, upbringing. Even the region we live in shapes what we eat on a daily basis. While many people prefer lighter foods or fruit over the summer, winter is the time for savoury foods and spices.

Social listening allows product managers, developers and marketers in the food industry to keep track of changing customer tastes and preferences, detect upcoming trends and adapt their product portfolio to those changes in order to boost sales figures.

Based on a recent report published by Talkwalker, here are three steps for food brands to leverage social media insights for the successful development and launch of new products.

1. Recognizing regional trends
In the example here, mentions for typical fall and winter flavours were broken down according to region – to account for the French- and English-speaking regions, the search was conducted in both languages, results are for a seven-day period mid-November. Cinnamon is the clear winner in terms of “winter flavours”, accounting for half of all online mentions across most provinces. The exception here is Newfoundland, where results are split evenly between cinnamon, sweet potato and gingerbread as favourite winter foods.

A breakdown for mentions of typical fall or winter flavours across Canada:
map canada

Keeping track of such trends or the overall conversation of food and nutrition allows food manufacturers to identify popular flavours or new trends as early as possible. The insights gained from social media monitoring allow food companies to supplement their research and development of new products, shortening the product development process and saving producers time and money.

2. Finding what customers care about
A theme cloud for popular winter flavours and tastes across Canada:
The theme cloud above shows which terms are mentioned in context with the “winter flavours” mentioned earlier the most. Aside from sweet, “roasted” and “light” are two of the most commonly-used terms in the food discussion. While a roasted flavour seems to be very popular, at the same time people are looking for light foods to eat over the coming holiday season. For food companies looking to develop new products, an overview of the top themes of online conversations offers insight into customer interests and helps to better segment the market by creating buyer personas.

After a product launch, monitoring online campaigns about a new product or flavour allows food manufacturers to gather immediate customer feedback – packaging, taste and texture, overall experience are all issues that customers like to discuss on social media. For food manufacturers, this can be a treasure trove of customer insights, allowing them to adapt their products or communication strategies according to customer preferences in real-time to ensure a product’s success.

3. Keeping track of competitors
A comparison of online mentions for major Canadian food brands since the beginning of November:

With the food industry developing so quickly and everyone trying to ride the latest trend, it is obvious that companies need to keep track of their competitors’ performance just as much as their own.

In the example below, the distribution of mentions for selected Canadian food brands show that Maple Leaf Foods has largely been dominating the conversation from beginning to mid-November. Mentions doubled around November 6 and 7, when the company had to recall one of its products. After a product launch, monitoring the online conversation for a brand is helpful is assessing how much attention a new product received and finding out what people think about the new item.

Social listening allows food companies to easily compile social intelligence and benchmark their products or campaigns against competitors to gauge the success of a new product. It also enables them to find best practices to use for future campaigns.

In the fast-paced environment of the food industry, keeping track of new trends to develop and adapt products according to customer preferences is essential for business success. Social media is full of these and other important insights that can help companies not only to develop exactly the products customers are looking for, but also to market them successfully – boosting customer satisfaction and sales figures at the same time.

Todd Grossman is CEO Americas, TalkwalkerTodd Grossman

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