A New Product by Tomorrow: How Jay’s Potato Chips Researched the UK Market

Published Feb 14, 2020

Richie Heron, VP Product Methodology

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After 20 plus years in the consumer insights and new product development business, I never thought that I could deliver consumer insights for new product development in as short a window as we can do today.

Recently, we answered the challenge to find out which of 25 flavors of Chicago-based Jay’s Potato Chips would be best received in the UK market. The Business Challenge was to find out if a popular potato chip maker in the US could launch in the UK market. And if so, which of its portfolio would be best suited to UK tastes? The flavors ranged from more subdued flavors like Original or No Salt to quintessentially American flavors like Buffalo Wing and Open Pit Barbeque.

We completed three research phases in 24 hours. These phases are Early Stage (What are the strongest products to take to the UK market), Claims Testing (which claims enhance our products’ appeal) and Pre-launch Testing (which product (s) will be successful on the market.)

In addition to knowing what flavors appealed, we wanted to know how the claims we could make about the chips would play with our target audience. The combination of the most likeable flavor with the most convincing claim would give us our ideal product (s).

Testing concepts

We started in phase 1 with a base of 100 respondents for each flavor concept, although we increased this number as needed throughout the testing. Our audience was defined by frequency of snack purchases, age, gender, region and main household purchaser.

This phase was done in nine hours. What that means is if you go home tonight and decide to launch a project with us, you will have the data tomorrow.

The five most popular flavors ranked from first to fifth were Open Pit Barbeque, Cheese Wheels, Buffalo Wings, Cheezlets and Original. The least popular was Hot Sauce Pork Skins, followed by regular Pork Skins.

How to sell it

In Phase 2 we used the Max-Diff technique to assess appeal. (Max-Diff assumes respondents evaluate all possible pairs of items within a set and pick the pair with the maximum difference in preference). Our base was 500 respondents. We tested 10 claims including the following:

  1. Less sodium as compared to other crisps
  2. We use the highest quality potatoes
  3. Fresh taste!
  4. Crave-worthy flavours
  5. All natural ingredients
  6. Great on-the-go snack
  7. Light oil – no mess!
  8. Fresh from the farm!
  9. Made with UK consumer’s tastes in mind!
  10. America’s favorite.

There was a very clear preference for two claims, “All natural ingredients” and “We use the highest quality potatoes”. In fact, most of the other claims were neutral to negative. The one that ranked the absolute bottom as “America’s favorite”, which is maybe a little surprising considering the number one flavor – Open Pit Barbeque – is closely associated with American food. Phase 2 took three hours from beginning to end.

Ready to Go in 24 hours total

In Phase 3 we combined the most popular concepts and claims with a smaller audience of 150 to determine which product to launch. This phase took a total of 12 hours.

The two finalists were Open Pit Barbeque with the claim “We use the highest quality potatoes” and Cheese Wheels with the claim “All natural ingredients”, which ultimately won based on Purchase Intent, Likeability, Distinctiveness, Believability and Importance

From beginning to end in just one full day, we completed three key phases of product development research and, providing the price point is acceptable to customers, Jays is now ready to launch Cheese Wheels in the UK. The combination of the ease of research with the speed of research is unprecedented in our industry. While today companies routinely take many months to conduct the same quality of research for product development.

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