Post-recession innovation a focus of upcoming Protein Summit

The U.S. economy may finally be returning to health, but consumer target markets have shifted, and they won’t respond to the same appeals that worked just five years ago. The innovations needed to reach them now include new understanding of value, the role of health and loyalty, says Thomas Kuczmarski, senior partner and president of Kuczmarski & Associates, a Chicago-based management consulting firm specializing in innovation.

Kuczmarski, who co-founded the annual Chicago Innovation Awards, will be discussing these ideas as a keynote speaker at the 2011 Protein Innovation Summit, produced by the Marketing & Technology Group’s HOTELS, Plate and Meatingplace magazines on March 28-29 at the W Hotel City Center in Chicago. Kuczmarski’s presentation, “Product and Process Innovation for the Post-Recession Consumer,” will help kick off a lineup of experts looking at what lies ahead for center-of-the-plate product innovation for the post-recession consumer and identifying hidden opportunities within the R&D process across emerging flavor and menu trends.

“The key message is that consumer behavior has changed as a result of the economic shifts that have occurred,” Kuczmarski says. “While a rebound is starting to happen, I believe strongly that the change is here to stay. Consumers won’t return to their same behaviors but rather will continue to have some different needs and will modify their purchase behaviors.”

He notes that going forward, producers, suppliers, manufacturers, restaurants, foodservice operators, chefs and the like will need to pay attention to five ingredients for innovation success in this industry: 

  • Creating more value for the consumer: “It’s not about lowering the price, but rather about increasing the perceived value that consumers believe that they are getting,” Kuczmarski says. 
  • Satisfying the new definition of “healthy”: Consumers are looking for the real thing, just less of it or portioned in a way that still satisfies but doesn’t overfill.
  • Offering new consumer experiences: Consumers want new experiences in their selection, flavors, textures and choices.
  • Using social media tools: Consumers get lots of information from social media sources that years ago was not even possible.
  • Building and rewarding loyalty: Consumers want to be recognized and rewarded for their loyalty.

These factors, combined with an overall understanding of customer and consumer needs and wants, will help organizations at every level of the food industry stay on top of the changes and ahead of the competition.

Among other highlights of the 2011 Protein Innovation Summit:

  • Presentation of original research findings and discussions that will drive new product development
  • Chef-guided interactive flavor demonstrations and tastings
  • Discussion of collaborative strategies with foodservice and hotel corporate chefs, meat and poultry buyers, processors and supply-chain partners to optimize the R&D process 
  • A trade fair with multiple interactive product sampling opportunities 

To see a full agenda, learn more or register, visit the Summit’s microsite