Crowdsourcing, Potato Chips and Healthy Sales Figures

Published Jun-30-11

Nationwide crowdsourcing competition to find a unique potato chip flavor to reenergize a famous UK snack brand.

Walkers, United Kingdom

The Story:

Crowdsourcing, Potato Chips and Healthy Sales Figures Walkers is a British snack food manufacturer, most famous in the UK for its flavored crisps (potato chips). Despite a strong market presence, extensive advertising campaigns and years of bumper sales, its potato chip lines were flagging towards the end of the last decade as competition was increasing.

To breathe new life into the brand the company turned to crowdsourcing and open innovation and reached out to the public for ideas. The ‘Do Us a Flavour’ contest launched in July 2008 challenged participants to dream up a unique flavor of crisp.

Innovative Flavors

The competition drew an incredible response as more than one million entries were submitted. "The complexities of flavor fascinate me and to watch the British public get so excited about taste has been absolutely inspiring,” said Chef Heston Blumenthal, one of the judges.

After several weeks of deliberation the judging panel selected six finalists. Each of their ideas was turned into reality by the potato chip manufacturer and sold in supermarkets from January to May 2009. Flavors that ended up on store shelves included crispy duck and hoi sin, cajun squirrel, and fish and chips. During this five month period votes were cast on the Walkers website to decide which flavor would stay permanently on sale.

Big Money Incentives

On top of the £10,000 (approx., USD $16,500) that each finalist received a further £50,000 (approx., USD $82,000) was awarded to the winner. I

The top prize went to Emma Rushin from Derbyshire for her Builders’ Breakfast flavor which received 232, 336 votes. In addition to the cash award she was offered one percent of profits from all future sales of the new flavor. According to Walkers, if sales reached that of one of its most popular lines – BBQ flavor – she would receive around £57,000 a year (approx USD $93,000).

Tasty Results

The crowdsourcing competition was a hit for the potato chip manufacturer on two counts. Not only did it have a new flavor to market, but the UK once again fell in love with the Walkers brand, which created some very tasty results:

During phase one of the competition 1.2 million flavor entries were received. At its peak that was 156 per second.

The website that hosted the contest was the fastest growing in the UK in July 2008.

During phase two 810,000 votes were cast.

The competition generated plenty of free publicity across all online and offline media.

And the best result of all was that year-on-year sales rose by 14%.

Consumer Knows Best

Overall the competition demonstrated how sometimes the consumer knows best, so why not tap the general public for some of their ideas? The rise of social media makes it incredibly easy to involve consumers in product development or in any other creative enterprise.

The total value of the prize money on offer was generous and a powerful incentive for consumers to get involved, but the sum was a drop in the ocean for Walkers in terms of the boost to sales and publicity it got out of it. When a competition is as well executed as this, co-creating with customers is a low-cost business model that is increasingly winning the attention of many a CEO.

For super smart brands product development has come out of the sterile confines of the R&D lab and been turned into a golden marketing opportunity that can achieve long term results.

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