Donna Berry

Six seconds-that's right, six seconds is how long the average consumer spends looking at any single food or beverage product category before deciding what brand to put in the shopping cart. This was one of many marketing factoids that Dina Howell, director of the "First Moment of Truth Business Team" at The Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G), Cincinnati, shared with attendees as the keynote speaker of the 2005 SmartMarketing meeting this past week in Atlanta.

Amazingly, P&G has an entire team dedicated to increasing the odds that the brand consumers buy is a P&G brand. According to P&G's Chairman, President and Chief Executive A.G. Lafley, "The retail store is where the first of two 'moments of truth' are in our business occur. It's when a consumer surveys the store shelf and votes."

Howell explained that approximately 75% of all purchase decisions are made at the point-of-purchase. Effective marketing outside of the store increases the chance of a consumer considering a particular brand during the six seconds they are scanning the shelf of a product category. Unknown brands that do not connect with consumers seldom make it into the consideration set, unless price is the sole purchase driver, and then brands are not even a factor.

P&G believes that most of the time it wins the first moment of truth because the company offers a better value compared to the competition, with value having many definitions. Sometimes better value comes in the form of competitive pricing or product uniqueness. Other times value is an extra benefit. And, in some cases, value can be a significant elevation and extension of the brand's benefit.

P&G's second moment of truth occurs when consumers use P&G brands. The company believes that every usage experience is its chance to delight consumers. Leading brands, billion-dollar brands, are built on the trust and loyalty earned when both moments of truth are earned, according to the company.

Winning these two moments of truth comes from constant innovation in all aspects of the business-from product and package development to promotions and customer relations. Innovation is bringing products to consumers-products that help make everyday life a little bit better. In today's world, that often translates to a little bit easier.

Howell cited examples of how innovation can be developing a product that consumers never knew they needed, but once they try it, they cannot live without it. Examples include Swiffer® disposable floor cleaning products and the Crest® Whitestrips™ teeth whitening system. She emphasized that manufacturers need to define innovation in a broader sense. It's not just product benefits alone. It's about leveraging initiatives together to delight shoppers. This also means "launch and leverage" these initiatives, rather than "launch and leave" them, as so often is the case.

A new product launch lasts about two years, according to Howell. Unfortunately, many marketers stop introduction efforts after six months. In-store commercial innovation should play an increasing and longer lasting role in the success of new product launches.

Now granted, few products in the dairy industry are at the innovation caliber of Swiffer. However, that should not limit marketing efforts in providing blockbuster reasons why a consumer should purchase one brand over the next.

A particularly successful innovation effort by dairy processors has been the evolution of fluid milk. Ten years ago, consumers did not know they wanted milk in a single-serve bottle. Today, they cannot live without this package.

Thanks to efforts from processors coast-to-coast, single-serve milk bottles are not only available through grocery and convenience stores, milk bottles can be purchased at airport kiosks and health club vending machines. And the best news, they are becoming more readily available through school lunch programs. For example, HP Hood LLC, Chelsea, Mass., has retired its former school milk cartons and now offers students 10-oz single-serve bottles with labels sporting athletic cows.

Beyond single-serve milk bottles, consumers are likely not aware of the fact that they want to consume more dairy ingredients in their diet. But hopefully through beverage innovation, the industry will let them know sooner than later.

Indeed, dairy ingredients have the potential to be a big player in wellness/functional beverages, the beverage segment projected by Beverage Marketing Corp., New York, to be the fastestgrowing in the United States between now and 2008. This category is set to outstrip carbonated soft drinks in growth and share of market, and dairy is poised to shine in many of these new beverages.

Such was the theme at the Dairy Management Inc.™ (DMI)-sponsored Dairy Innovation Forum held in New Orleans in late February. Julia Kadison, senior v.p. at Beverage Marketing, presented eye-opening statistics on growth, consumer trends and the current state of the beverage industry. Accordingly, she showed that dairy has great potential to show up in unexpected places such as energy drinks, isotonics and enhanced waters (not to mention the more expected sports nutrition drinks, meal replacement beverages and smoothies). The incremental opportunities for dairy should make the industry sit up and take notice. Dairy ingredients, particularly whey proteins, are the obvious choice for beverage manufacturers because of their superior flavor, versatility, functionality and nutritional benefits.

"Dairy ingredient suppliers and processors can be more proactive," Kadison told the group at the annual two-day, invitation-only Forum. "The opportunities are out there waiting for you."

Bill Haines, v.p. of product innovation at DMI, said, "Innovation is key to the future of the dairy and dairy ingredient industry."

Indeed, such beverage innovations might some day compare in value to P&G's Swiffer. Consumers don't know they want such healthful, great-tasting, energy-enhancing dairy-based beverages, but once they try them, they will be hooked.

For more information on how dairy, food and beverage manufacturers can use dairy ingredients to develop successful products, call the DMI Technical Support Hotline at 800/248-8829 or visit www.doitwthdairy.com or www.extraordinarydairy.com.