Spokesperson Mr. Mihir Mehta, SVP of Ashika Capital shares his insight on the Product Development and Innovation for F&B Industry as follows -
In one of my previous articles I had mentioned that “Roti, kapda aur makaan” are probably the most basic human needs and in the order as well, Roti takes precedence over other needs. Since centuries, the F&B business has been conducted in various forms, shapes & sizes and has seen significant phases of evolution in the last few decades. In my humble opinion, the business of food is quite interesting because not only is it a renewable/incessant business, it is equally dynamic and challenging and mostly on a daily basis. Some recurrent challenges like maintenance of quality & hygiene, product storage, supply chain management etc. are a part of the daily challenge diet of a F&B entrepreneur. That being said, F&B as an industry has seen considerable experimentation & implementation when it comes to aspects like products, distribution models, business models, supply chain management & storage etc.
In terms of product development & innovation, the F&B industry offers an extensive opportunity especially in a country like India wherein the diversity of cultures, cross-cultural practices, cultivation & inclusion of diverse raw materials, rapid adoption of novel products etc. propel the need and pace of product development.
In my humble opinion, F&B players could look at some of the under-mentioned thoughts in order to focus on consistent and sustainable product development -
Discovery of unexplored cuisines at scale
Undoubtedly, India is a land of many cultures, practices & food cuisines. At the time I invested in an emerging food services entity The Bohri Kitchen, I was pleasantly surprised to see the reception garnered by the brand in a short time. One tangible reason behind the virality of this brand was the resurgence of a cuisine that had been limited to the households of a specific community. The conceptualization and scaling of Bohri food products created a whole new ecosystem of raw material vendors, kitchen staff, food experts etc. for this cuisine. In the past as well, the growth of brands like Rajdhani, Soda Bottle Opener Wala etc. is a testament to the success of a novel or latent cuisine when built to scale.
Creating a robust R&D ecosystem within the organization
While the larger F&B operators do spend considerable resources on creating and strengthening their R&D teams, most mid-sized players have not been able to supplement their R&D in the most effective manner. More often than not, we see that newer entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs who have achieved a comfortable scale, are focused solely on optimizing their supply chain for the existing products and achieve a competitive cost profile. Quite obviously, it is a necessary and the prudent thing to do but de-prioritizing new product research & innovation in product development has long-term consequences in form of plateauing demand, decline in brand recall, slower inorganic growth etc.
Implementation of an actionable customer feedback channel
Well, this may sound like a normal thing to do in order to spur efficient product development but we are often surprised to see inaction & unorganized processes on this front. Yes, it is true that different customers carry different opinions about the products as well as processes and it may get difficult for F&B operators to identify & assimilate the right feedback. However, it is essential that companies follow a streamlined process to receive and implement customer feedback in order to maybe run trials of new products and have a set of customers who could be the right sounding board when it comes to new product development. The significance of a customer sounding board is undebatable and having a consistent & reliable sounding board is critical to ensure that the product development process does not suffer slowdown at any point.
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