Packaging innovations

Product innovation, new product development and packaging innovation in the food industry: what’s the difference and when do marketers need them?

With many industries being disrupted and influenced by dynamic startups, innovation isn’t just a fad or even a source of advantage anymore. Moreover, these changes aren’t restricted to industries traditionally focused on R&D, such as automotive or pharmaceutical, or born out of innovation like IT. Product innovation, new product development and packaging innovation, pioneered by the likes of Apple, Google and Tesla, are now a necessity also for food and beverage brands. But what’s really the difference and when you should consider them? Let’s stick to the example of the food industry and explore the landscape of innovation on this ground.

Food product innovation

While food product innovation is an exciting avenue, it’s perhaps the most challenging approach to developing a new product concept. A food product idea is innovative if it involves the use of new or unknown processes the configuration of which can’t be easily replicated by other businesses. In the food industry, product innovation also means that new and unknown ingredients will be used and other businesses can’t access them with ease. As a result, food product ideas require a lot of up-front new product ideation (that is a blank-page approach to creating the product) as well as frequent prototyping combined with insight marketing. In the food industry, this means creating sometimes surprising products from scratch, and testing them with consumers on a regular basis. Food product innovation can help when brands need exciting, new products to sustain their advantage or when they want to enter new markets or segments.

New product development in the food industry

In fact, what happens most often in the food industry is new product development, that is portfolio line extension by creating variations on existing food products. This means that NPDrelies on using existing processes and ingredients with slight modifications. In the food industry, new product development can be equated to adding a new flavour to an existing portfolio line. Of course, some prototyping may also be required, but the need to trial and test food product ideas with NPD is far less intensive than with product innovation. New product development in the food industry works best for marketers with have good, solid portfolio lines that perform well and could be further extended with successful variations.

Food packaging innovation

Innovations in packaging have traditionally been associated with packaging producers driving innovations in the supply chain. However, with the role of food and beverage packaging changing and moving away from just preserving, protecting and dispensing products, also packaging innovation is changing in nature. Today, food packaging innovation means additional performance characteristics, such as increasing sustainability through the use of recyclable materials, or individualisation of pack design. Packaging innovation can be used for example to develop new sales channels for traditional products, for example by presenting the same beverage brand in different packaging as a health drink, an infused water beverage, and a protein drink.