Science & Research
Following the trends
Science based consumer research is essential to understanding and describing consumer behavior and thus ensuring business success at Symrise.
The more you understand about end consumers’ decisions and preferences, the more effectively and systematically you can structure product development or define growth strategies. According to Katja Tiitinen, Director Sensory & Consumer Insights, Flavor EAME, Symrise has experienced a change in perspective regarding consumer research over the past five years. There is now a focus on consumer motivation and expectations – and on the driving factors behind taste preferences – rather than on collecting product-related data for the creation of changing taste profiles.
The idea behind it is to detect micro and macrotrends before they’ve had an opportunity to establish themselves in society. “In the past, customers would usually approach us about a flavor. Now we want to ensure that our products are a good fit for consumers before a customer even approaches us. This way, we have our own and possibly even better offers and potential solutions for our customers when they get in touch with us,” explains Katja.
According to the director, the company has developed a level of expertise that customers highly appreciate and make use of. After all, customers often expect a complete solution rather than a flavor solution alone. “When it’s a question of what’s relevant for the market and which products and concepts appeal to consumers, we can now speak to our customers on equal footing. This places us in a favorable position to further develop ideas together,” Katja adds.
The approach to market data that needs to be collected and analyzed has changed in the business units. For example, BU Sweet EAME worked with Sensory Consumer Insights EAME to introduce the new Symrise platform Flavors For Feelings. Here too, the goal is to understand consumer requirements even better and earlier on, and thus develop the Most promising taste solutions for and with the customer. It’s also a question of identifying and evaluating regional and cultural differences between consumer requirements and flavors.
When it’s a question of what’s relevant for the market and which products and concepts appeal to consumers, we can now speak to our customers on equal footing.
Katja Tiitinen, Director Sensory & Consumer Insights Flavor EAME
CHANGING PRIORITIES But what happens if the well-functioning rhythm of everyday purchasing decisions and consumer preferences changes entirely from one day to the next? The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily brought the world to a standstill, both economically and socially. The consequences are manifold, and in some cases drastic. One thing is clear: Consumers who are forced to stay home for an unspecified period of time due to a lockdown or quarantine will inevitably rethink their priorities. Hygiene products and healthful foods are suddenly more important than new lipstick, and fast food plays a minimal role.
How are the different Symrise business units responding to this new, wholly unique and challenging situation? And what are the most important questions that Symrise customers have regarding consumer trends that are changing due to the pandemic? Dylan Thompson, Senior Marketing and Consumer Insight Manager, Flavor NA in the USA, explains that they’re working more proactively than ever before. This work includes preparing virtual presentations for customers which outline the most current market data, consumer insights and flavor trends for more than 20 key categories.
Another highly popular initiative is a series of webinars in which Symrise provides customers with the latest reports about COVID-19 as well as consumer trends and insights, ensuring they stay one step ahead of the competition. Consumers’ behavior and emotional well-being have been impacted by the pandemic in many different ways. A trend that Dylan and his colleagues have identified is the increased interest in “feel-good food.” One example of “feel-good food” is passion fruit, which is believed to be anti-inflammatory, good for the skin and digestion, and to support weight loss and blood circulation. Another example is oats and oat milk, as oats contain the soluble fiber beta-glucan, which is said to reduce cholesterol and be good for the heart. Oat milk has made leaps and bounds this year. In the USA, the number of menus that carry oat milk has increased by 30 percent. “This trend is closely connected to immunity and plant-based ingredients, which have also become increasingly popular with consumers this year,” explains Dylan.
Based on these new requirements and habits, we’re in an even better position to predict flavor tonalities that will one day be important in different markets, thanks to our new Flavors for Feelings platform.
Dylan Thompson, Senior Marketing and Consumer Insight Manager, Flavor NA
Dr. Dariah Lutsch, Sensory & Consumer Insights Research Manager Sweet and Dirk Neudorf, Senior Marketing Manager Sweet, Flavor EAME, have observed something similar. While analyzing the changes in consumer habits resulting from the pandemic they discovered two aspects of consumer requirements that have gained significantly in importance. On the one hand, those who feel threatened by COVID-19 feel the need for well-being and familiarity as symbols of safety in uncertain, frightening times. And on the other, many consumers are increasingly focusing on stimulation and excitement after weeks and months in lockdown. “Based on these new requirements and habits, we’re in an even better position to predict flavor tonalities that will one day be important in different markets, thanks to our new Flavors for Feelings platform.” Katja also believes that understanding consumer needs and the associated flavors makes it easier to adapt more quickly to changing situations. However, it is difficult to predict what will happen in two years – the coronavirus pandemic is a good example of how consumer behavior and consumption patterns can change in a very short time.
But she also mentions that familiarity and food safety are especially important to consumers right now, and that’s why topics such as purely plant-based foods, naturalness and sustainability are right at the top of the list of consumer needs.
TRENDS ARE INTENSIFYING Speaking of sustainability, the pandemic has shown how successful the efforts of Symrise have been under these exceptional circumstances. The local presence of teams from Symrise and those of its partners has made it possible to maintain contact to farmers. The expanded Symrise teams were busy building robust supply chains in Madagascar, India, Brazil and the Philippines. “Continued efforts are helping to build trust among farmers who are experiencing uncertainty. We can continue to guarantee traceability, which is important,” says Mark Birch, Director of Sustainability.
The pandemic has reinforced the existing trends of naturalness, health and environmentally friendly behavior. Social distancing has prompted consumers to become increasingly focused on the origin, nutritional value and sustainability of products. As consumers become better informed through social media and a wealth of online information sources, the growing awareness of trust and traceability in the food chain has led to an increased demand for natural and healthy food products.