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From the consumer point of view, nowhere are we inundated with more choices than at the supermarket. And our options keep growing.

Think about this: Supermarkets carried an average of 8,950 items in 1975, but that number grew to more than 42,000 items in 2014 – an increase of nearly 475 percent.


Despite all these choices, the average U.S. household uses less than 1 percent of the food items available to us, and 76 percent say we’re bored with our food.


So what gives? How can so many of us claim to be bored with our food options and have such an obvious unmet need when we have tens of thousands of ingredient and meal options to choose from?


The Network of Food
The answer may lie not in what we as an industry are offering consumers but rather how we’re helping them get it. People are creatures of habit and can be hesitant to change those habits, even if they’ve become bored with them.


Fortunately, the network of food provides new ways to reach people and be a part of the decisions that can help change those habits.


What is the network of food? It’s the vast digital landscape that gives consumers instant access to everything from grocery-list apps and food bloggers to grocery stores and food suppliers. It empowers each individual consumer to find exactly what he or she wants – from recipes to caloric information to product availability – at any time and from any place.


The challenge for CP food companies is identifying how they can fit into the network of food to become a relevant and useful part of each consumer’s experience.


This gets to a point that Vivanda CEO Jerry Wolfe made in his keynote presentation at our Best Practices for Consumer Products Conference. He observed that consumer products companies by and large continue to market to consumers en masse, despite the fact that food choices are intensely personal and consumers in fact want personalization.


“They’re not happy with you if you’re not doing it,” Wolfe said. “Especially given that they go through a food-buying process 14 billion times a year.”


CP companies struggling to determine how they provide a more personalized experience within the network of food need only look to Wolfe’s former employer, spices and seasoning leader McCormick & Company, for inspiration.


Last year McCormick introduced FlavorPrint, a personalized recipe-recommendation service that consumers can access anytime and anywhere on their computers and mobile devices. The online-based service begins by asking consumers about 20 questions regarding their food preferences. The responses to each question help formulate a taste profile for each user, which is then matched against the taste profiles of different foods.


FlavorPrint uses this data to deliver personalized recipes to each user, similar to how Amazon and Netflix use customer data to deliver personalized product and movie recommendations. Users can also answer additional questions to further enhance their personal flavor profile and find complementary recipes.


A personalized service such as FlavorPrint can spice up consumers’ meal-planning routines by presenting them with new foods – and new tastes – that they knew will be appealing to them. This can break up consumers’ dietary doldrums while creating untapped growth opportunities for CP food companies.


Such services also can play a larger role in consumers’ everyday lives. It could involve helping New Year’s dieters find healthy recipes that don’t sacrifice their favorite tastes. In the future, it could also involve merging taste profiles with activity-tracking profiles to help consumers find recipes that not only taste good but also are in line with their fitness or nutrition goals.


For CP food companies, experience-based services and platforms can help you connect to and engage with consumers in new, more personal ways. Helping consumers achieve something that’s meaningful, whether it’s enjoying their meals again, supporting their passion for cooking or helping them improve wellness, breeds long-term loyalty and customer happiness.


More than that, it can help drive real results in your business. FlavorPrint, for example, led to double-digit growth in spice purchases for McCormick.


With this in mind, CP food companies should ask themselves: How can we become a key player in the network of food, and how can it drive our brand and business?


Learn more about Digital Transformation for Consumer Products at Consumer Products. Reimagined for the new economy.


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