Battle Creek-based consultancy JPG Resources has its fingers on the pulse of the industry, from innovation to supply chain, consumer trends, investment and venture capital. By working with a wide variety of brands and industry leaders, the team is uniquely positioned to offer a different perspective from different sides of the business.
BakeryandSnacks sat down with Managing Director Glenn Pappalardo to get a deeper look at what the future holds.
What is a successful product?
A successful product is something that responds to a true consumer need in an effective way, and effective is the critical term here… starting with taste and consumer experience: that’s number one. If it is not pleasant to consume, people will not continue to buy it.
Beyond that, there is nutrition. First of all, does it satiate me? But then does it make me feel better? And is it better for me in the long run?
And then there are the portability and convenience aspects. How hard is it to actually consume?
Then, as we radiate even more, there’s the notion of sustainability… so is it good for the world around me? That could be the packaging, recyclability, ingredients, how humans are treated along the way (Fair Trade), and the perception of the company that made the product.
When you can check all of those boxes, and not everyone does, that’s “sort of” the ultimate measure of success (there are plenty of products that don’t check all of those boxes that have been successful). As long as you start with the flavor, and at least one of the others, you have a fighting chance.
Does the industry have a speed problem in getting the product to market?
It depends on who is making the product and what is the measure of success.
Getting a terrible product to market quickly is never a good outcome. I’ve also had that debate many times throughout my career that speed for speed’s sake is not the goal.
That being said, there is a lot to be learned by embracing the notion that things are often imperfect.
The biggest companies are getting better around the idea that you can’t completely eliminate risk or perfect a product in isolation, on paper, on paper, or in a focus group. You need to allow it to go on the market and give people the opportunity to interact with it in as close to normal behavior as possible.
Have we overcome the challenges posed by COVID?
No, in part because of the challenges created by COVID and in some cases, those that were already there and were exacerbated.
Industry infrastructure, for example, was already stressed before COVID, particularly logistics and trucking.
There are still breakdowns in ingredients and packaging materials all over the place. Think about growth cycles for certain products or creating new capabilities to process and create packaging materials – those are not overnight processes or decisions. They are multi-million dollar and in some cases multi-billion dollar decisions that need to be made, so everyone is trying to read the tea leaves and figure it out. This is complicating a lot of other things… what should my message be? What happens with my packaging formats?
I think we’re still trying to figure it all out collectively and we’re probably a few years away from really knowing.
In general, many of those decisions have been made, so there is hope on the horizon. But in the meantime, we still have a little more pain to overcome…things like the war in Ukraine, the uncertain scenario around work, etc.
On the other hand, the pandemic did a good job of letting us forget about all the normal things that usually disrupt our lives… right now in Michigan where I live, everyone has the flu, which is normal, but we forget that it still happens. .
Similarly, the unions are still on strike and there are labor problems that go beyond the shortage of bodies.
How is the industry dealing with the barrage of new challenges?
Looking back over the past decade, there has been very little change in price levels for all major inputs to products for the most part and availability has rarely been an issue. So everyone was able to optimize and enroll the absolute best provider with the absolute best price.
That hasn’t been the case for the last two years and we spend most of our time helping clients stay nimble, flexible, with contingencies, but in ways that don’t absolutely destroy profitability. We’re trying to do a little bit of a dance on the head of a pin with everyone mulling over how to do enough at the quality levels that customers and consumers expect, but in ways that don’t bankrupt me.
We have noticed that the whole mindset has changed to keep trying to be innovative and reliable in an age of constant uncertainty.
We’re going to see some stronger companies over the next decade because of what’s happened in the last two or three years… you’re pretty battle-tested right now, but that’s business as usual.
Pappalardo also delves into the plant-based movement and why wellness continues to be a huge trend. We also explore the most popular ingredient tickets in 2023 and why food waste is one of the most solvable challenges of 21stcentury, however, many around the world still suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
We talk about sustainability, supply chain, scarcity, M&A movement forecast for the new year: “I think we will see a little more divestment next year” – and snacks.
What’s the next great snack to hit the shelves?
The technology now exists to take whole ingredients, such as mushrooms or fruit, and turn them into a completely unique and different savory or sweet snack than what we are used to.
There is the potential to redefine the notion of word of mouth: eating things that are ultimately incredibly simple but also incredibly clean.
Some of the greatest dining experiences I’ve had are often some of the simplest…so the ability to bring a little of that back to the world of snacking. It is the maximum transparency: a strawberry as you never knew it.