« August 2006 Table of Contents
Trend Watch: A successful launch meets everyone’s needs
Product development is much more than flavor and packaging decisions
By Lauren Kramer
August 01, 2006
If your company is considering launching a new seafood
product in the next few months, you're far from alone. More
than 33,000 new products are launched each year, nearly 15,000
of them food items, according to Productscan Online data for
2004. And 75 to 90 percent of them fail.
"Companies have to realize that the shelves are not empty,"
says Pat Shanahan, a seafood-marketing consultant who runs the
Seafood Prix d'Elite at the European Seafood Exposition in
Brussels and the New Products Competition at the International
Boston Seafood Show. "A new product has to displace something
that's already there, has to offer something better, or be so
new and different a buyer will want to take a chance and offer
it to customers."
A retail product has only seconds to make a lasting impact
on a shopper's consciousness, says Joan Schneider, president
of Schneider & Associates in Boston and author of the 2005
book "New Product Launch: 10 Proven Strategies."
"Procter & Gamble has done research that shows people
make a decision to buy in between five and seven seconds," says
Schneider. "That's your window of opportunity to make an
impact. If your product looks the same as everyone else's,
you're really missing that opportunity."
One of the problems in the seafood industry is that seafood
companies are developing products without knowing what
retailers and operators really want, says Shanahan.
"They think they know, but they don't actually ask the
buyers, find out what's missing and which consumers they're
trying to reach. Those are key questions, but the buyers I've
talked to say they don't get asked those questions very
Another problem is that seafood producers aren't developing
"Seafood manufacturers don't want to take a bold stand on
flavors," says Andrew Wilkinson, executive chef and partner at
Skipjack's Seafood Restaurants in Boston. "I think it's
important to develop products that will attract people to
seafood while using bold, international-style flavors that go
great with seafood. We need products that will make people
say, 'Wow, I didn't think I liked seafood, but I was wrong, I
There are five questions every company should ask before
launching a new product, says Schneider.
1. Does this product do something new and innovative?
2. Does it make users' lives simpler or more enjoyable?
3. Does it empower its users?
4. Does it tie in with current trends?
5. Why should anyone buy it now?
"Most companies tend not to put their product in the broader
context, which makes it really hard to stand out," Schneider
"For example, in the consumer market, the
health-and-wellness category is really important as a trend,
and fish fits right in. Organics, portability, convenience and
nutrition are all important. You have to think about what
broader trends your product fits into, and how you'll
capitalize on those."
One of the winning products at the Boston product
competition, the Bistro Fresh Kashmiri Curry Salmon with Rice
and Vegetables, had all these bases covered.
"You cook it in the microwave for four minutes, and it has a
steam valve that lets out just the right amount of steam," says
Shanahan. "The technology didn't just sound good - it worked.
So you had a fresh meal with a clean-ingredients list ready in
under four minutes, and it was delicious. It really delivered
on all of its promises and was new for the U.S. market. When
you get a good product like this, it stands head and shoulders
above the others."
Bistro Fresh of Camden, Maine, started in October 2004,
launching its first products 18 months later.
"We first saw the Kashmiri Salmon product in Europe," says
Steve Young, company president. "One of the companies I'd
worked with had a license for the steam-valve technology in
Europe. The minute I saw it, I felt it was something I needed
to translate and bring over to the United States."
The company now has 20 SKUs and offers a full spectrum of
retail entrées, including seafood, chicken, vegetarian and
pork, all featuring the steam-valve technology. Bistro Fresh
supplies meals under private label to retailers like Hannaford
Bros., headquartered in Scarborough, Maine.
"The reception from consumers has been great," says Young.
"They're using our products exactly as we hoped they would: for
lunches and for those evening meals when they're too busy to
cook but still want something quality that's better than frozen
and better than takeout."
Wilkinson, who was one of three judges at the Boston product
competition, agrees that the Kashmiri Curry Salmon was "a very,
very good product that emphasizes the positive, healthy
attributes of seafood. There are very few choices for retail
customers in this respect," he says. "But this product is a
great alternative to the breaded, fried selection of seafood
[products] typically available."
The difference between the winners and the losers at the
competitions Shanahan organizes and adjudicates is that the
winners get everything right, not just one aspect of the
"I've seen products that tasted fabulous, but their
packaging was all wrong, or their pricing wasn't going to work
for the target market," she says. "It's really important to
ensure you've addressed all the aspects a buyer will be looking
for, and not just the product and its taste profile. For
example, does the packaging add value? Have you chosen the
right target market? And is your product something that's
The bottom line is that when it comes to preparing seafood
at home, people are afraid. "They're scared it will smell and
won't taste as good as it does in a restaurant," Wilkinson
explains. Schneider agrees that this is a problem, but it's
also an opportunity for seafood suppliers and producers to
educate customers about their product.
"All the fish looks the same at the fish counter; there's
nothing that differentiates one product from the next, and no
educational material," she says. "Point out the features and
benefits and provide information so consumers can make an
informed choice. Provide recipes, organize culinary
demonstrations and focus on education," she advises.
"Eighty-one percent of consumers are likely to buy a product
they've sampled, but I don't remember ever sampling a fish
product in my life. You have to create excitement about your
product and educate your buyers so they'll try it and then buy
Contributing Editor Lauren Kramer lives in British