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New product winners and losers: Does it add value?

With decades of innovation under its belt, Salinas, CA-based Mann Packing Company, Inc. BB #:114946 became synonymous with innovative value-added fresh produce.

From Broccoli Slaw and Stringless Sugar Snap Peas, to the very first product I ever tested on video: Ready, Set, Steam, a single-serve pack of broccoli and cauliflower with buttery sauce.

Not everything was a hit for the company, says Gina Nucci, former co-owner and director of marketing for the company prior to its sale to Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. BB #:111187 in 2018.

The company’s Veggie Mac-n-Cheese (which I also tested and found delicious) hit the market in 2013 after about 18 months of focus groups and product development.

“Initially everyone loved it,” Nucci says, “and it gained great distribution.”

But it became the victim of too many new products at once.

“It got lost on the shelf in a sea of plastic,” Nucci remembers. “It was difficult to see anything different about the product from the outside.”

Combine that with a resurgence of product development in the freezer section, and the price point didn’t meet expectations.

“Consumers need to know where to find a product, and have clear descriptions and visibility of what’s inside,” Nucci points out. “Otherwise, they’ll just see a bag with a higher price and think it’s just plain simple broccoli.

“And no matter how many focus groups you do,” she says, “if consumers cannot find the product in the store, it won’t sell.”

Mann Packing learned a lot from Veggie Mac-n-Cheese, going back to the challenge new products face in solving problems.

“I think the most important thing we took from that product launch fizzle was that consumers need to be familiar with the item, and it needs to be difficult or challenging to recreate.

“Adding broccoli to your shelf-stable mac and cheese is pretty simple, and the frozen aisle had a lot of success with similar products for a fraction of the price.”

This is an excerpt from the cover story of the September/October 2021 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue.

Pamela Riemenschneider is Retail Editor for Blue Book Services