A Major Food Brand's Appetite for Open Innovation

Published Jan-02-12

Open innovation competition to find a great potato chip flavor.

Smith's Snackfood Company, Australia

The Story:

A Major Food Brand's Appetite for Open Innovation For food and beverage companies open innovation and crowdsourcing initiatives with consumers is something of a no-brainer. Many are variants of a similar theme and include Ben and Jerry’s global ‘Do the Wold a Flavor’ competition and Jelly Belly’s ‘What’s Your Favorite Flavor?’ competition.

These contests increase engagement and deepen the relationship with customers by giving them a say in product development. They also provide a cost-effective means of marketing, and with the ubiquity of social media tools are fairly easy to implement.

More than ever companies are realising that consumers want to have a role in the future identity of their favorite brands, and open innovation and crowdsourcing techniques are giving them the opportunity to have their say. The clued up and savvy CEO is starting to take them seriously.

Crisp Competition

In 2009 Smith’s Crisps in Australia asked consumers to help it come up with a great new potato chip flavor.

The open innovation contest was held over a six month period, during which time a phenomenal total of 314, 529 entries were received. Participants had to suggest a new flavor as well as send in an image that best represented and expressed their tasteful idea. It was modelled on a similar and successful ‘Do Us a Flavor’ competition held by Walker’s crisps in the UK, a sister company to Smith’s.

Fab Flavors

More than 100,000 flavor ideas were generated. The most common suggestions were pizza, bacon and eggs, meat pie, and chocolate. And some of the more extraordinary ones included spicy seaweed sushi, and crocodile and sea salt.
The submissions were eventually whittled down to four finalists and their creations went on to supermarket shelves for a limited period of time. This gave the public the opportunity to vote for their favorite via a specially created competition website.

The final four flavors were– Late night kebab flavour (by Lucas Barsby), Caesar salad flavour (by Aline Pascuzzo), Buttered popcorn flavour (by Steve Richardson) and BBQ coat of arms flavour (by Vinnie Kaye).

Each finalist picked up a check for $10,000 but there was an even bigger prize awaiting the overall winner – a check for $30,000 plus 1% of sales revenue for as long as the product is on sale. This could earn the victor up to $200,000 per annum.

The big winner decided by a combination of sales and public votes via SMS and online was Sydney mother of two Aline Pascuzzo for her Caesar salad flavour.

Contest Benefits

The competition clearly captured the public’s imagination and tapped into their passion and creativity for the Smith’s crisp brand. It also generated masses of free publicity for the crisp manufacturer as the contest was talked about and featured on TV and radio shows, in newspapers and magazines, and via social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

For switched on brands open innovation offers a full, frank and swift means of communicating with the fan base that can offer a richer source of ideas than the rather sterile environs of a market research/focus group.

The challenge for any company engaging in these sorts of open innovation competitions, and the key to getting them right is to ensure that the dialogue with consumers is open and honest, such that it leads them to extend the reach of the business through brand advocacy.

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