The genesis of a new dog food: Eureka or a structured approach?

There appears to be some statistical evidence that in mature markets (no market is saturated before having achieved close to 100% penetration and calorific coverage), the majority of growth is represented by new products. In fact, new products and their introductions drive our business. More from a value than from a volume point of view.

One of the key implications of this is however that product lifecycles become shorter.

How to define new?

How you define new is obviously open for debate. Is it new for the industry, is it new for the company? Is it a minor change to an already long existing theme or is it a major breakthrough that will change the life of the animal, its owner or both forever? The question is: do you take the initiator position – with its inherent risks – or are you satisfied with following; the latter is a good way to avoid risk. Both are very legitimate positions, but the higher risk one tends to be more rewarding than taking the position of the follower.

The choice between these two is fundamental to any New Product Development (NPD) process you want to embark on.

That's what it is: a process! Necessary to bring new and successful products to market. A structured, well-defined and well-planned approach rather than the spark of genius while sitting in the bathtub (Eureka).

And, as importantly, this process is not the monopoly of a few big players in the pet food industry. Any company that takes itself seriously can start an NPD process for dog food, the more so if it is prepared to join forces with peer companies also in search of new products, but servicing different geographical markets. With a bit of guts a lot can be done!

Your position in the market

The choice between initiating "new and exiting" vs. "we want the same as the benchmark" is of course heavily influenced by the way in which the company positions itself in the market.

Does it want to claim psychological leadership or is it focussing on following other initiatives.

If the latter is the case, price, more often than not, becomes a decisive factor: "as good as X, but (significantly) cheaper." Price-erosion will set in before long and the initiator needs to react. How? By revamping the product, while trying to find new attributes that appeal to the end-buyer.

But all based on technologies that are already in existence for at least 40+ years and which are in essence available to everybody who is in the industry or who wants to come into it. So the technology is or will not provide a Sustainable Competitive Advantage

How to start?

So, what's new, what's unique? And what is the starting point in your thinking process? The vested interest in the technology that you have or feeding a dog in a way which is pleasing both the animal and the owner irrespective of the technology necessary to manufacture that food? Provided of course that the product is nutritionally sound and keeps the animal in excellent shape.

In the first case you can not expect a breakthrough!. What you do is limited by and to your technology.

If you however want to feed dogs in a pleasant and nutritionally sound way but differently, a plethora of opportunites opens up. Just by looking at an adjacent industry: human food! New (for pet oriented foods) technologies become available as do – probably - new ingredients. And do dog foods (for animals that increasingly are part of the family and are treated as such) have to have a 12 to umpteen months shelf-life?; in an era where the trends in human foods are fresh, chilled cabinet, short shelflife, no chemicals, less processing etc.

With focus, perseverance and commitment new dog foods can be brought to the market successfully if you take the initiative to step out of the box of existing technologies and start to use the technological alternatives. Not necessarily by investing yourself in this technology, but by coming to an alliance (co-packing or more) with a company that has the alternative(s) available.

No more Eureka (reactive), but a deliberate and well-planned step in the direction of being meaningfully different (pro-active) will give you the icing on your future cakes.

Note: the essence of the above does of course not only apply to dog foods

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