In his book The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwarz asserts that the abundance of choice we're faced with today can fool us into believing we have better options, are more likely to be satisfied, and that our decision making is more informed. However, his own and others research shows when we are faced with an abundance of choice, we actually find it harder to choose.
When it comes to food and nutrition trends, there's no shortage of choice. The constant flow of information that bombards our inboxes, events and meetings can see us sinking into a quick sand of choice – submerged by excessive amounts of intelligence it can be bewildering to make a decision about which path to take.
Information overload without a filtering system increases the risk of indecision and stagnation, delays the time taken to bring ideas to market and increases the risk of confusion rather than leading to the creation of clarity. Ultimately, this can be a contributor to the finding that 70-80% of new products in the grocery sector fail to succeed.
While the volume of information available at our fingertips provides significant opportunity for food businesses to create new marketing programs, products and key messages that engage consumers, its making that initial decision about which trends to follow that can often present the greatest challenge.
My experience working with food businesses over the years highlights the following is helpful to consider when it comes to monitoring and integrating trend information into your business.
- Pay attention to the source of the information. Information is easily accessed however varies significantly in quality. Know the sources you can trust and filter out those you can’t or are unsure of. When it comes to surveys and research findings, ask questions about methodology and ensure you have access to experts who can filter the information, pick the good from the bad, the relevant from the irrelevant and the well substantiated from the disreputable.
- Have clear intentions around how you will use the information – intelligence about trends can be interesting, read by your team, accessed and filed away. But that's a bit like reading the Sunday newspaper – it provides a source of information and entertainment but has no actual leverage within your business. Once it's tossed aside, it's rarely picked up and referred to again. To get around this, be clear on the intention of accessing data on trends. Know how you are going to use what you source and distribute. Who needs to read it? Is it better discussed than read? How can it be fed into relevant and current projects? Does it support your food philosophy?
- Systemise the distribution – information is only useful if it gets to the right people. With marketing and innovation teams often experiencing regular turn over, it’s easy to have people drop off the distribution list and miss important information relevant to executing their role. Systematize the distribution of your information and allocate responsibility for regularly reviewing and monitoring this to ensure it remains up to date.
As consumers become smarter and more informed about their food choices, their expectations of food businesses are growing. To meet the demands of today’s well informed consumer, food businesses need to up-skill and be experts in food and nutrition. Effective management of information gathering, assessment and distribution is critical for those looking to lead in the decades ahead.