Guest Column | January 8, 2018

New Product Development: The Challenges Of Decoding The Consumer Voice

By Debie Blair, Mondel─ôz International

As a waiter or a sales associate, it’s easily understood that customer satisfaction is key since those customers are often sitting or standing in front of you during the business transaction. But, in other industries, where the customer is further down the chain of commands, it can be easy to leave customer service on the table. More particularly, product developers in the food industry face many challenges, as we attempt to prevent the customer’s voice from fading into the background.

In the food industry, the consumer’s voice is extremely important to keep in mind as new products and quality improvements are devised every day. We all strive for customer satisfaction, but the customer’s voice, documented through consumer surveys, complaint tracking, and social media, isn’t always satisfaction per se. To interpret the feedback and translate it into formulation changes and flavor concepts can be a skill in and of itself.

As a product developer, it’s my job to hear the consumer. Sometimes, it’s clear-cut on social media where a consumer comments, “I need you to make a quadruple stuf Oreo! The creme is just the best!” Other times, it’s less defined. For example, when a person calls to complain: “I don’t know why, but this box of crackers doesn’t taste like it normally does.” I am challenged to put aside any personal opinions on what the consumer should want and create food products that they think they want.

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