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Inside Retail & Prof Consulting

Delivering growth through a customer-focused agenda

Food & grocery retailing is changing at an incredible pace, clearly visible in the increased number of new products and brands launching into Australian stores almost weekly.

The challenge for producers is making sure their brand is still there in 12 weeks’ time – that consumers have understood it, sales have met expectations and that the time invested ahead of the launch has delivered great results. Regardless of size, those companies focused on delivering solutions to the consumer are those who are gaining critical market share.

Businesses seeking growth can sometimes forget that their customer is the end consumer – not the retailer or wholesaler selling their products in stores. Awareness of how international trends influence product design or formulation and understanding where key categories will evolve over the next three years can support strategic investment and more robust forecasts on sales growth. Beyond focusing on the next round of launches or range updates, lasting success comes from holding a longer-term view.

“Putting the consumer at the heart of all we do is critical for success,” says Mark Field, CEO and founder of Prof Consulting, whose business serves to help companies grow by explicitly guiding them to focus on their end consumers. “A growing consumer preference for shopping convenience is fostering the growth of ‘modern retailing’, those companies in the market that are adapting quickly are being successful in gaining growth.”

Mark Field, CEO and founder of Prof Consulting.

Business owners with great enthusiasm for their product may be able to list 15 things they’re proud of about what they’re selling, but experience shows that it’s hard enough to communicate just two of those things to consumers engaged in fast pace shopping online and at the supermarket. Streamlining a company’s messaging to align with consumer expectations can involve reducing the messages and focusing on those that will have the greatest impact or influence during that ultra-brief decision-making process by the consumer.

“We discuss the critical link in delivering customer solutions with our clients, aligned with the retailer’s corporate strategy and how these can benefit their business,” says Field. “If the strategy is health or convenience, how does your product align with this opportunity?

“Changes in consumer behaviour or demand have driven innovation or opportunities at pace. Online, as an example, we have seen increased capability and capacity that could have taken 10 years to deliver, made available within six months. Many of our clients have added an e-commerce offer to their business delivering greater growth – especially as D2C – connecting consumers closer to the source or provenance of their food. increases in importance.  As consumers, we are influencing the evolution of food and related services – what we want to eat, where we want to eat it and the sustainability agenda.”

Sustainability, as a case in point, is a global concern for consumers, retailers and brands alike who are becoming more environmentally conscious – it is an area of strategic importance in building brands. Such changes in the tenor of consumer demand have brought about scientific advancements across environmental measures in production – from water reduction in crops and the reduction of food waste through to developing plant-based and carbon-neutral foods, sustainable packaging, and methods for energy reduction. These trends are here to stay and will continue to be an essential focus as we look to produce more planet-friendly foods. The role of IT and use of data is becoming critical in measuring, reporting and tracking food security and environmental performance.

“It all comes down to consumer demand,” says Field. “We are hearing, ‘We want healthier foods. We want prebiotics and probiotics, we want collagen in some of our products, because we understand the benefits’. Our task is to understand that’s what the consumer wants, and then ask, ‘How can this be incorporated into a product that meets the consumers’ needs across food and non-food?’

“I think we’re right on the edge of a very exciting time,” he adds, “because we’ve got significant federal money being made available for Australian food manufacturing; we’ve got probably some of the best alignment between the food sector, the entrepreneurs, the investment community, and academia; and this is all starting to come together in quite an inspirational and powerful way. If we can continue to position the voice of the consumer into that conversation, we can use all this power to deliver the exact products that are wanted or are required by the market.”

Across 25 years of International FMCG experience, Field has seen an encouraging transition in Australian businesses towards understanding what consumers want and how to incorporate that into a corporate growth strategy through innovation, producing great products that consumers connect with. This is becoming more apparent at both ends of the market, from internationally owned businesses to new-to-market entrants delivering agility and great products.

“It’s about offering consumers a solution, as opposed to just trying to sell the product, and that’s a real mind shift,” says Field. “The companies that are doing it are doing it well; those companies that aren’t doing it are looking towards how they can change their thinking within their organisation. It isn’t about one person’s view anymore, it’s more about who is targeted as a customer. To say, ‘I want to do a product that’s going to be for 24 million Australians’ is a very blanket statement that doesn’t have great impact – but if you say, ‘I want to target 40 per cent of this category, because I’m offering something that’s different’, then it all starts to link in.”

Prof Consulting works to deliver growth for their clients in the food and grocery consultancy space with a focus on delivering tangible commercial benefits to clients. The team leverages its extensive and diverse industry experience and understanding of customers to help drive growth towards business success. The team gives their client’s business an advantage in today’s dynamic market. Prof Consulting aims to be an extension of your team, complementing and collaborating with them towards your brand’s success. For a broader understanding of Prof Consulting’s capabilities, visit www.profcg.com or email mark@profcg.com.