Innovation wins - evolve or lose

June 04, 2012

Competitors can come from unexpected places. Retailers and CPG need to look ahead and look around.

Factors that rob retailers and CPG brands of sales can come from anywhere.

Consider how showrooming agitates stores today and threatens their growth. Did they wait too long to learn and track the evolving relationships between America’s consumers, online competitors and the technology advances empowering both? Did they focus too much on other physical stores as their primary competitors?

The Lempert Report thinks so.

The same can be said for beverage suppliers that once looked only at their narrow category (say, soda) instead of water, energy drinks, juices and other beverage sectors as competitors as well. Or chip makers that didn’t consider pretzels, popcorn, snack bars and such as encroachers on snack eating occasions. Examples abound.

The point is not only to look ahead, but also to look around. Define competitors and potential competitors more broadly in order to avoid surprises.

The latest example is Greek yogurt. It has clearly taken the yogurt category by storm—and it keeps stock clerks fit from the exercise of replenishing protein-rich packages on dairy shelves. That consumer health benefit is why people love it. Category suppliers have obviously been all over this. But we can’t say the same for some providers elsewhere in the store that may never have thought Greek yogurt would affect their business. But it appears to be doing just that.

Spire chief analytics officer Megan Margaff told the Star-Ledger (NJ) recently that Greek yogurt “growth is affecting deli-prepared meals, like soup and salad bars.  People running in to grab lunch in the middle of the day are increasingly buying Greek yogurt, because of its high protein content, to replace those items. And it’s affecting center-store items like soup and frozen meals too.”

As we see it, innovation is an industry constant. It’s what people want. It’s what sells. Kudos to Greek yogurt for raising the bar, and for reminding everyone they need to evolve and improve.