Results - Identify success factors

Below you can find summaries and links to the full reviews.

Challenges for internal communication in the food innovation process
It is estimated that 80-90 % of novel food products fail within the first year of their introduction to the market, with important financial implications for the companies. Successful performance of food innovation depends on many factors in the NPD process which are related to consumer characteristics, product characteristics, marketing characteristics, market characteristics, and organisational process characteristics. Internal knowledge sharing and communication has been identified as a critical requirement for innovation success. Connect4Action performed a literature review to investigate the factors that promote or hinder internal communication within the food industry or similar industries, in order to provide a list of propositions that food companies can use to establish innovation success based on optimal internal communication. The review focused on three main topics; the enablers of internal communication, factors that are important for an effective communication process, and the main influencers on the need for communication.

Enablers of internal communication

Organizational structure: One of the best ways to encourage internal communication is to establish a good organizational structure, based on effective cooperation and communication between internal stakeholders. The level of formalization (rules and procedures in job performance) is important, including among other things distinct performance standards, clear responsibilities, and well-defined guidelines. For instance, formalisation of activities may improve communication between marketing and R&D because the team members are forced to share information at fixed time intervals by having regularly scheduled face-to-face meetings. Besides, the level of centralization may have an effect on internal communication, with decentralisation (empowered teams that make decisions at lower levels of the organisation) to be considered as a facilitator of better internal communication for NPD success as opposed to centralization (decisions are made at a higher level in the organisation).

Team composition: Considering internal communication, existing literature calls attention to the relevance of cross-functional teams, consisting of experts from different functions – especially marketing, R&D, and manufacturing. For example, technical experts need to educate marketing experts about recent developments in technology, and marketing experts need to educate technology experts about aspects of consumer behaviour. In relation to cross-functional teams, role flexibility (carrying out some of each other’s tasks) may enhance inter-functional information sharing. By making people acquainted with different functions they achieve a broader understanding of how to solve a problem.

Management support: Top management support is crucial for facilitating knowledge sharing within the companies. Specifically, top management should support an innovative climate by rewarding project teams, encouraging open communication, helping the team to overcome difficulties, keeping open communication channels with people involved in the NPD, and providing the resources facilitating a successful NPD process.

Knowledge management: Systematic and effective knowledge management (a mechanism aiming at optimising knowledge sharing between functions) is necessary for successful NPD, as it enables better knowledge sharing across functions. The key element for internal communication is the ability to share knowledge between different functions and to track and include product information in the communication flow. Different types of knowledge management systems will fit different companies, but they all aim at supporting acquisition and development of knowledge.

Building an effective communication process

The literature review also identified the most important factors for building an effective and efficient communication process. These include transparency (clear roles of each person in the NPD process), knowledge usability (the extent to which the knowledge which is shared, is perceived as meaningful, relevant, action-oriented, and innovative), and knowledge credibility (climate in the company and the level of trust between functions). Efficient usage of the above mentioned facilitators is expected to ultimately reduce communication costs for a company.

What influences the need for communication?

In general, a higher level of uncertainty (internal: within the company, or external: environmental uncertainty) will require a higher level of internal communication, implying that the need for the various facilitators will be of more importance in order to influence the communication process positively. Another impact factor on the need for internal communication is the phase of the NPD process, implying that integration of functions may not be equally sufficient at all stages in the NPD process. For example, in the early phases, more integration is required between marketing and R&D, whereas in the later phases companies may benefit more from integrating R&D with other functions such as manufacturing.

To read the full report, click here. Chapter 4.1 provides an overview of implications for the food industry that have been derived from the above presented literature review.

External communication for successful food innovation
In the highly competitive food industry, which is strongly market-driven, it is important to carefully listen to and communicate with consumers. There are three modes of communication between food technology businesses and consumers. At the level of communication from the consumer to the company or business, consumer needs and wants are often identified through market research methods such as surveys, controlled experiments, and focus groups. Business to consumer communication involves similar market research methods but the aim is to identify consumer responses to newly developed product propositions that are positioned through advertising, product labelling and branding. More recently, however, there has been a shift towards communication methods that are based on a more direct and continuous interaction between the consumer and the business/company, such as the co-development practice. Connect4Action has conducted a comprehensive review of the scientific literature to collate information on the communication between businesses that implement food technology and the end-consumer. An emphasis was put on identifying those factors that determine the success or failure of external communication.

Three modes of communication between food technology business and consumers

Extracting information from Consumers

Consumer research can elicit information regarding perceptions, attitudes and opinions. Such insights are of great value when developing novel food technologies/novel products as consumer acceptance is key to an innovation’s success in the market. Consumer acceptance of a novel technology may be investigated both at the level of the technology as a whole and at the level of products embodying that technology. Single, small-scale surveys can be an efficient type of data collection if specific research questions for specific applications of a technology are already in place. On the other side, systematic reviews and meta-analyses present an appropriate approach to developing a more generally applicable source of prediction of consumer responses. Information elicited from consumers should be evaluated on the basis of whether it can actually lead to more success in food technology development and implementation.

Communication from Business to Consumer

Once a technology or a product embodying that technology has been created and developed, it is important to enter a dialogue with consumers. This involves a careful selection of the types of risks and benefits to communicate, the level of detail provided to consumers, and the ascribed role (e.g., replacing existing foods or introducing new types of foods). Messages should be designed such that consumers find them believable and that they also convince consumers that making healthy and profitable food choices is achievable. In addition, it is necessary to be as explicit as possible in how foods are produced/processed. For food technology developers to communicate effectively to the public and consumers, they need to identify and familiarise themselves with the different audiences to which they want to communicate. Ideally, communication should be targeted at those consumers for which the novel technology provides a solution to an overt or latent demand. Finally, it is important to communicate not only with consumers, but also with other stakeholders in the food chain, recognising the variety of beliefs and imperatives held by scientists, journalists and key publics. Comparable to consumer evaluations of a technology, communication to consumers can also be at the level of the technology as a whole and/or at the level of products embodying that technology.

Co-Development

The early involvement of end-users in developing a novel technology/product can help capture important insights from those that will be using the novel technology/product. This ‘actual-experience’ driven view can provide valuable information for the development process itself. Feeding end-user evaluations into the idea development stage (’up-stream’ development) may be more valuable compared to the feedback that is received through a more traditional ‘down-stream’ market research after the product development stage has finished. Consumers can provide information about preferences, what they like/do not like, and different ways in which products are or can be used. Such interactive consumer-business communication is typically organised in communities in which there is a cooperative atmosphere that allows for idea generation by trial and error and in which consumers elaborate on each other’s ideas. The company should guarantee maximum transparency regarding the way they handle information, keep the community up to date on the idea evaluation process, communicate in a clear and public manner on the feasibility of ideas, and explain their decisions.

To read the full report, click here. Chapter 6.2 provides an overview of evidence-based strategies for external communication that have been derived from the above presented literature review.

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