Freshmax, NZ

Investing in market research will reap rewards

A leading global produce company Freshmax has told a seminar at Hort Connections that the investment that it makes into market research is well worth the outlay.

The New Zealand based company, with operations in Australia, has been working with ‎Big Picture Marketing Strategy and Research, who have conducted a number of different innovative and consumer based studies. Head of Marketing Matthew Crouch says it has been a valuable step in ensuring they engage with their customers, which leads to greater sales and profits.

"The challenge around research for businesses generally is whether they warm to making the step into the investment levels," he said. "Two out of the three case studies in our presentation today cost less than $15,000 to deliver. We treat research funding and research investment as a trade-off, in that you can advertise it. So you research has analytical value. You can see it as an asset, rather than an operational cost."

One of the case studies centred on storytelling, and Deirdre Conroy from the Big Picture says that brands who do not connect with their customers through emotion are missing out. To explain this she used an example of the market research of a new apple variety at Freshmax, which began by talking to the growers about the features and characteristics of the product. Then they had to put it into a story, by choosing archetypal images to tap into different feelings and emotions.

"When we talk about the 'what', we talk about what it (the product) is, which is all well and good - it talks to the analytical part of the brain," Ms Conroy said. "But it doesn't actually change our behaviour. What changes our behaviour is when we take in the information about the why, because that talks to the decision making part of the brain, which then causes us to trust a brand and become loyal to it. When we communicate the why to consumers and they believe it, they then will go out of their way to buy our product because it is important to them."

But what is important to growers and producers in New Zealand, may not be to consumers in a different part of the world. So Big Picture and Freshmax went to their target market in Shanghai. The next part of this study involved two stages; watching consumer behaviours in China in different types of retail stores, and then holding focus groups to hone in on the triggers that made them want to make the purchase. That led to the creation of an "amazing" brand story that made Freshmax's product "stand out from the crowd", according to Ms Conroy, although it has yet to launch.

Banana brand
Another case study of how market research helped Freshmax revolved around innovation, and particularly how the company could make their banana brand more desirable. This research consisted of thoroughly interviewing consumers of different demographics to find out their values, beliefs, passions and eating habits.

"We left no stone unturned until we felt like we landed on a true understanding what these consumers were and what they stood for," Ms Conroy said. "What was really interesting was we were able to invite the people from Freshmax along to join in, ask questions and get close to their customers."

After discovering more about their customers, Big Picture moved onto co-creation ideation, or workshops where they worked through stages involving story sharing, identifying core needs, creating pictures and getting feedback from consumers. This process allowed them to streamline over 50 original ideas down to eight, which were rolled out to market, such as promotions, packaging and line extensions to innovate the banana brand.

The third thing that Ms Conroy says market research can help with is providing brand 'health checks', to work out how the brand and business is performing in the minds of the customers, or business partners.

Size of the prize
"The first thing is we can help you work out what the size of the prize is, essentially what that means is we can help you work out what the market worth is of a particular service, or product and what your share is," she said. "So how much of the market do you own compared to your competitors, and within that, what customers are going to you versus them. We can go a bit further and understand who the customers are; what sets them apart, and how can we group them on their different needs or different motivations. This is helpful to you as a business owner because you can tailor your messages and services to those different needs."

Freshmax and Big Picture also wanted to check their position in the local market. This was done by talking to growers and retailers, where six key criteria was used when deciding which wholesaler sell through, so Freshmax evaluate how they were performing and how they could tweak what they are delivering.

"Obviously the outcome of research like that is always insightful," Mr Crouch said. "There are always things you can do better and there are always things that catch you off guard. Fundamentally what we can do with that part of the business is say that that team needs to work on the following five things, as a key area for improvement."

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