Does Canada have an innovation pipeline?


While attending the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers’ (CFIG) Grocery Showcase West last week in Vancouver, I was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of truly innovative new products set to be launched into the Canadian retail environment. Spectacular ideas like, kale that has been dehydrated and flavoured naturally so that this (in my opinion) vile weed, can be sold in a crispy fashion not unlike a potato chip.

I also experienced some outstanding salsas, dips, pestos, and some cheese innovations that were out of this world to name just a few. But here was the problem–most of the small manufacturers still don’t have the slightest idea how to market a product. Due to no fault of their own, this is not their forte. In speaking with many of them they were surprised by some of the questions that I was asking them–Who is the target? Where should this be positioned in store? How much capacity can you handle if one of the retailers wants to list your product and this becomes really successful?

Many of the manufacturers that I spoke with were hoping that the retailer would stop by and provide them with answers as they listed their product. While it’s possible that some retailers will provide them with information the reality is that most retailers work best when the effort is collaborative.

So how does a small manufacturer start to understand the basics of launching a product in Canada? Here are some helpful tips:

1.“Learn” from the big guys (and by “learn” I mean “steal”). The truth is most of the work that needs to be done to effectively launch a new product has already been done by someone else. Get into store and note how others launch their products and try to emulate the best.

2.Search the web. Believe it or not you can find a wealth of information from Canada and around the world on launching and sustaining new products – it takes some searching but it’s there.

3.Ask multiple retailers for advice–Get their collective experience and let it guide you into a plan that you can potentially use with various retailers.

4.Ask an agency. Most agencies will gladly talk to you about your product in the hopes that they can generate some new business. You’ll likely get an hour of their time to throw around ideas. Don’t feel bad if you don’t use them. This hour is their pitch–the onus is on them to impress you enough to want to engage them further.

    I’ll close with this, I was beyond impressed with what I saw at Grocery Showcase West but I know that many of these products will not have a chance of success without some assistance. In my opinion the onus is on all of us to give some of the smaller manufacturers a chance at success and maybe we will be able to create a real innovation pipeline.

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