An unprecedented increase in grocery items being launched over the past 12 months has failed to ignite the interest of Australians, according to consultancy, The Leading Edge.

In 2007 there were 6472 FMCG products launched, an increase of 69 per cent from the previous year when 3825 products were launched. Over the same time ‘packaged grocery’ saw an increase in sales of just 4.7 per cent, with Nielson commenting in the spring/summer issue of their Market Place Quarterly report that the overall grocery growth in 2007 was slower than the previous year.

“These statistics prove that releasing new products doesn’t automatically lead you down the garden path of untold success and profit,” commented Chris Meredith, senior branding and innovation consultant of The Leading Edge. 

“At The Leading Edge, we define real innovation as something that drives a change in consumer behaviour. It’s this change that brings about real growth. For example, if a new car has such high fuel efficiency that people use it more often, that’s a change in behaviour. If a new snack bar encourages you to have breakfast when you’d normally skip it, that’s a change in behaviour. But when brands simply refresh their offer via range extensions, new flavours and new pack sizes etc, it helps them maintain their position in the market but doesn’t usually change people’s behaviour or drive growth.

“What we have seen during 2007 is a huge increase in new products that have been jumping on the bandwagon of a broad trend, such as the wellness trend. Non-food products that are labelled botanical/herbal, are fortified with vitamins or minerals or are ethically sound have seen huge increases, sometimes doubling or tripling. And for food products, the hottest trends involve anything fresh and natural.”

Meredith believes Australia is still conservative when it comes to innovation in comparison to other countries. 

“In a global survey amongst senior managers, USA/Canada was ranked as the most innovation friendly market in the world with 60 per cent of respondents saying that they would increase their innovation budgets next year. Australia/New Zealand aren’t shown separately in this report, but in the previous year’s report, we came in a lowly 14th out of 15 in the innovation league table.

“While Australian manufacturers should be congratulated for showing bravery and releasing products they believe to be innovative, the new products should be grounded and backed up with solid research and insight into the consumer’s needs.”

According to Meredith Australian companies need to be less risk averse. It’s okay to fail occasionally, as long as you minimise your potential losses and make sure you learn from failure.