Leader Foods savours insights to win in the Finnish snack and sports nutrients market

Nutrition, food, environment and sustainability are areas that are strongly interlinked. They are all hot topical trends, playing a decisive role in our personal well-being, not to speak about the common ecological footprint. According to the K Group, the biggest trading sector operator in Finland and one of the biggest in Northern Europe, people’s everyday well-being is also reflected in the avoidance of sugar, salt, fat and additives (Kesko Food Trends 2019). Health consciousness is raising the consumer expectations and requirements for the food products, and the product categories such as energy and protein bars are diversifying. To understand this trend, consumer insights are a must.

Leader Foods is a leading Finnish manufacturer and supplier of premium snack and protein bars, protein products, dietary supplements, superfoods, raw chocolates, as well as sports nutrients, drinks and outdoor meals. The family owned company has a strong focus on innovation and R&D; all the products are developed in-house in Finland. The broad brand portfolio includes BareBar, Protein So Much Taste!, Vida food supplements, Raw Choco, Rawsom Pure Superfoods, Leader Sports Nutrition and Leader Outdoor Gourmet. For a couple of years, the company has attracted interest also from international markets with its new, upcoming product innovations and is currently exporting products to 20 countries. This article focuses on the collaboration between Leader and Crowst, and consumer insights enabled product portfolio planning and packaging design.

In the eye of the beholder

Beyond the strong trends of health, wellness and nutrition, there are certain factors in the consumer goods business that remain the same. Many of these are linked to brick and mortar, the retail chains and stores that sell the products to consumers. In these stores the marketing efforts, operational efforts and customer loyalty are ultimately measured. Consumers make their purchasing decision in front of full shelves, which often include campaign materials, seasonal offers, not to mention the role of product placement and packaging design.

“We offer premium deluxe snack and sports nutrients products in a highly competitive and diversifying market”, opens Sari Iija, Brand Manager at Leader Foods. “We need to stay tuned on the consumer pulse every day to ensure our offering matches with the consumer demand. This would be impossible without genuinely knowing the context of our customers’ lives, approach to wellness and physical training”, Iija continues.

Product packaging plays an important role in the heavily competed market, along with campaign materials and product placement.

Leader Foods and Crowst started collaboration in May to integrate direct consumer insights into the product and packaging design process. “Our customers, people who appreciate healthy lifestyle and well-being, are the best people to guide us in our product development and packaging design work”, Iija describes. “Naturally, when thinking of the product appearance, we need to know what packaging designs are favored and why. It’s in the eyes of the beholder, and the only way to know is to ask; in the form of consumer insights”, Iija comments.

Protein bar concepts that make the mark

The company’s protein and snack bar product portfolio covers over 40 products. The product range is regularly revised and renewed, including the introduction of new flavors and packaging designs. Crowst enables quick product concept and campaign testing; the design variants are shown to consumers on the Crowst mobile app, and the respondents comment what works and what doesn’t. The designs can be shown as pictures and films, along with relevant questions.

“We are excited to follow the study progress in real-time on the Crowst Dashboard. Our product planning and design process aims at delivering high quality and our products are very dear to us, thus we are very keen in seeing and reading the respondents’ own comments on each concept”, Iija outlines.

The concept testing studies are targeted at respondents that match with the product’s target customer segments. This impacts directly on the validity of the data, correlating with the commercial success in the market. Targeted respondents respond to the studies using the Crowst mobile app, and the client views the incoming responses in real-time as automated graphs, word clouds and other data on the online Crowst Dashboard.

“Typically, we get 500 responses in around 50 hours from our target customers. This is the speed and quality we need to make the right decisions on our product go-to-market approach”

“Typically, we get 500 responses in around 50 hours from our target customers. This is the speed and quality we need to make the right decisions on our product go-to-market approach”, says Iija.

Consumers help the company to help them; to deliver the products they appreciate and wish to have to support their needs and lifestyle. Crowst has the consumer insights pulse designed in its core, which can be seen in the form of consumer insights driven products hitting the shelves in stores across the country.