A new approach to innovation

Bolthouse Farms’ MAIO is the newest product from C-Fresh’s new innovation model

Source: Bolthouse Farms

MAIO, an indulgent tasting yet better-for-you alternative to conventional mayonnaise, is the latest test product to come out of C-Fresh's innovation team and its unique approach to incubating products on a small scale before expanding. 

Launching next week, the idea for MAIO “was really simple,” said Carolyn Tao, VP of marketing for C-Fresh Innovation, a division of the Campbell Soup Company that owns the Bolthouse Farms brand.

She explained, “Consumers love mayo. It is the largest condiment out there, but they really have a guilty feeling when they use it because they know it is not great for them. It is high in fat and calories and our idea was what if we made an alternative mayo but used yogurt as a base, instead of what is normally used.”

The result is a better-for-you product that “has all the rich creamy mayo flavor, but only 20 calories and 1 gram of fat per tablespoon,” Tao said.

In addition, the new trio of condiments, which comes in plain, chipotle and garlic, also touts a clean label “just using ingredients that would be in a pantry, like milk and olive oil, which also are all non-GMO,” Tao said.

Refrigerated condiments hold potential, face challenges

Because the brand is yogurt-based it will be stocked in the refrigerator segment, a popular destination for shoppers who increasingly are eschewing the center-store where most condiments are sold in favor of “fresh” products around the store edge.

However, this placement cuts both ways as it also is not where most consumers will look for a condiment beyond, maybe, a salad dressing.

Tao acknowledged there will be a significant education component to habituate consumers to look for a mayo alternative in a new place and to do that the company will rely heavily on “like minded partners and retailers,” she said.

It is also one reason why the product initially will only be sold at Safeway stores in Northern California – to see how it performs and consumers respond. If it does well, it could be rolled out nationally, but likely only after a few “tweaks.”

A new model for new products

The limited distribution and willingness to change the product after launch are key elements of C-Fresh’s forward-thinking innovation-incubation strategy, Tao said.

“As part of our innovation process, we are trying to put more products in the market, but we don’t expect all of them to do well,” Tao said, adding, “innovation goes that way. … Some will make it in the market and some won’t.”

The idea for innovating quickly and incubating a product in a test market to see what works, what needs to be changed and if a product can hack it before going national takes a “little bit of a cue from entrepreneurs,” Tao said.

“We are really excited about this. We have a lot of passion and respect for what entrepreneurs do in the market. … [They] like to get their products out in the market quickly and then test, learn and change something if it's not working,” Tao said. “So, that is really our inspiration and the innovation team is working towards a more entrepreneurial model.”

The model of launching fast and quickly adjusting to ultimately create a successful product also can be more fiscally responsible than taking a new idea from start to finish in house and then launching it nationally only to realize it is a flop or needs changes to succeed, Tao said.

“This is a better preposition because if we are in the market and can test and learn, we can tweak things before we do a national launch. And, it is more efficient to change things when you have only launched it at one retailer than when you have launched things nationally,” she said.

Evaluation process

While a product is in incubation, C-Fresh aggressively evaluates its performance and consumers’ responses to it.

“We look at the in-market performance, which is a form of consumer feedback on what is selling, how fast it is selling and then we are soliciting actual feedback. So, we can do that via either social media and comments, or we do actually go out and field consumer survey’s in market to get a sense of what consumers who are actually buying the product think,” Tao added.

And if they like it, she said, the product could be rolled out nationally or it could be reformulated or otherwise updated before a national launch to guarantee the most successful result, she said. 

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