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Finding Whitespace in a Crowded Marketplace

February 12, 2019

Whitespace is an area of untapped market potential where a creative, well-thought-out solution can catch on and grow.

A leader in nutritional supplements asked Big Village Insights Accelerated Intelligence service to help them innovate a new product line within the healthy, pre-packaged food marketplace. Our client realized a burgeoning segment of health-conscious consumers between 25 and 45 years old was on the rise—and they wanted in. Having examined the market, however, it was clear a number of products already addressed a multitude of this segment’s needs.

To help our client innovate a new product line, we’d first have to find an area of whitespace ripe for innovation.

Through the Right Lens, Trends Reveal Opportunities

We got to work. We investigated societal trends, innovations, and market context within the packaged nutritious foods space.

We focused in on societal trends that are having a significant impact on healthy lifestyles and eating habits. Innovation trends in the market were discovered by analyzing product launches, ingredient use, packaging, product categories, and nutrition claims. We put these trends into context by highlighting market leaders and mapping historical market performance and growth projections in key food categories.

The team tapped our propriety expert network for opinion and insight into the significance of the societal and innovation trend impacts and interactions. Our experts revealed other important trends, real life examples of how businesses are leveraging these trends, and new avenues of discovery for further research.
Finally, we blended together our findings from the societal, market and innovation trends. Without a trend analysis framework to reveal opportunities, however, our client wouldn’t have known what to do with the data. Fortunately, we had a solution.

We recommended a trend overlap analysis that visualizes trend information while revealing relationships and opportunities in areas of overlap or interaction. We used an innovation trend framework to look at many forms of innovation and highlight areas of intense and mild innovation competition. Last, we used findings from the first two analyses, along with focus group data, to craft an offering-activity-culture map. An offering-activity-culture map considers the activities consumers engage in while using similar products, as well as the cultural norms that influence or drive these activities. Using this map helped illuminate how people connect with products in the market, what they do, and how they live.

Societal Trends Shed Light on Consumer Desires

Having done our research, we focused in on the societal trend categories of lifestyle, values, culture, and demographics. We then leveraged secondary research and expert interviews to find individual trends impacting and influencing healthy lifestyle choices.

We grouped similar trends together into broader categories that had similar impacts or influences. For example, we grouped the following trends together into one main category called, “Ethical Eating”:

  • Known Sources of Ingredients
  • Ethically Raised Farm Animals
  • Environmentally Friendly Packaging
  • Recycling of Farm/Production Waste
  • Sustainably Grown Foods
  • Natural and Organic
  • Environmentally Friendly Farming and Production

We examined the broader trend categories we’d constructed for areas of overlap, similarity, convergence, and even confliction. Any areas of overlap or interaction were further investigated for additional insights and opportunities, revealing specific insights and opportunities such as:

• Affluent consumers can afford higher prices associated with ethical and healthy eating, and will buy such products if they believe it makes their family or self healthier. Affluent consumers will also share these choices as a form of social currency to gain positive peer feedback.
• Mid- to lower-middleclass audiences also want to make healthy-lifestyle choices, and much of this demographic falls into Millennials.
• A two-tiered product lineup would reach a broader market, with a ‘good enough’ version for the segment that can’t afford ‘premium’.

Finding the Whitespace by Analyzing Innovation Trends

To find the whitespace we expanded our thinking to investigate unique and innovative approaches competitors were using in the following areas:

  • Business Models
  • Partnerships
  • Operations
  • Products
  • Product Systems
  • Services
  • Channels
  • Brand and Marketing
  • Customer Experience

By reviewing different innovative concepts in these categories, we discovered that the clear majority of healthy, pre-packaged food innovations are occurring in products and brand/marketing.

Having expanded our thinking, we knew competing on product innovation is only one of several areas where a company can innovate and lead. With such little innovation in the other areas, we had found our whitespace.

One Last Perspective

We used an offering-activity-culture map to further diversify our thinking and reveal further innovation opportunities we may have missed.

The map helped us develop a list of consumer activities and cultural factors. Cultural factors were linked to the activities they influence and a map was created to show the relationships visually.

The most revealing insight to come from this exercise was that 4 activity areas were being driven by a large number of cultural factors. The 4 activity areas were:

  • Avoiding Bad Food
  • Tech for Tracking/Research
  • Sharing Activities and Eating
  • Self-Care

The data suggested that these 4 activity categories have the most cultural influence and desire for consumer engagement. This meant that any innovations that address the consumer needs associated with these activities may have a greater chance of success.

For example, based on our societal and innovation trend research, what if a nutritious, pre-packaged food producer partnered with a genetics company to create a smartphone app? Working with the genetics partner, the food producer could help consumers create a genetic health profile and then create healthy, pre-packaged foods to address the top concerns and opportunities revealed by individual profiles. Using the smartphone app, the users could track their progress, health goals, and share both with friends via the app and social media. A product like this would hit the 4 activity areas, as well as innovative trend areas such as partnerships, products and customer experience. As this example demonstrates, our analysis frameworks enable you to make the intuitive leap from insights to concepts.

Insights Equal Opportunities

By going beyond typical trend research and taking a deep dive into analyses frameworks that are designed to reveal insights, we identified several new areas of whitespace and opportunity within the healthy, pre-packaged foods marketplace.

Our client now has the specific areas of focus for innovation and the confidence knowing an untapped opportunity awaits.

Need help finding the whitespace in your industry? Contact Us!