Internet study reveals what consumers are looking for

A critical first step in the development of any food or beverage is to get a read on what consumers want. And if you give consumers what they want, or think they want, this helps ensure new product success.

In efforts to assist product developers and marketers with the endeavor of understanding what makes consumers tick when it comes to beverages, this past year, WILD Flavors Inc., Erlanger, Ky., sponsored a market research study called Drink It!™ to help the company and its customers understand consumer beverage interests. The study, conducted by Moskowitz Jacobs Inc., White Plains, N.Y., and The Understanding & Insight Group, Denville, N.J., was completed in September 2002.

“The study investigated consumer interest for 29 different beverage categories,” says Debby Poskanzer, mgr., marketing services and sensory evaluation at WILD Flavors. “More than 6,000 people participated in the Drink It! study.

“As the sponsor, we are able to get first-hand insight into the research and can use this insight to partner with our customer’s projects,” Poskanzer says. “The Drink It! study is unique because data across so many categories does not exist in one place. It is consumer driven and quantitative, and covers both positioning and product attributes. It easily complements other market data, and enables companies to drive higher consumer interest in a product, to get product to market more quickly and to jumpstart emerging categories.”

About the study

The Drink It! study was conducted with®, an Internet and conjoint-based tool that is fast, statistically sound and affordable. The analysis can look at individual response patterns and element interaction.

“Conjoint analysis is a stimulus-response methodology,” says Poskanzer. “It is based on the idea that respondents know what they like but they cannot tell you why. Therefore, you can give them descriptions, and let them rate the description.

“Then you can look for drivers, which are elements that increase or decrease interest,” she says. “With, you can look across many categories to understand similarities and differences.

The study is designed to consider product, emotions, occasions, packaging, temperature and other attributes. Additional classification questions enable the data to be broken down by various demographic and psychographic groups.

Interpreting element scores

Using conjoint analysis, each element or concept component is assigned an impact score that represents the interest contribution of that component. Positive values indicate that the feature enhances consumer interest, while scores near zero indicate consumers are indifferent to inclusion of that feature. Negative values indicate that the feature actually detracts from consumer interest.

“Some elements were common across all 29 beverages,” Poskanzer says. “We also found from the data that there are three segmented groups of beverage drinkers: Variety seekers, traditionalists and impressionables.”

“For the variety seekers, flavor and texture varieties in beverages scored higher than plain beverages. Simple product descriptors are interest drivers for the traditionalists. Descriptors of the basic beverage appeal to this group,” she explains. “The impressionables, on the other hand, want to know everything about the drink. Beverage descriptions using word pictures, emotions and brands all increase the interest in this segment.”

The research identified a variety of elements of interest associated with yogurt beverages (see table). And by digging deep into the data, the study shows that the variety seekers segment scored the descriptor “frothy yogurt blended with real fruit juices for that feeling of the exotic in a drink” higher than the descriptor “drinkable yogurt.”

Other findings from the yogurt beverage data include that such drinks are usually consumed in the morning and mid-afternoon, and interest in yogurt beverages is driven by taste, texture and lots of flavor varieties.

“The Drink It! study is enabling us to create more compelling new beverage ideas for our customers,” Poskanzer concludes.