How to Conduct Product Testing Research

Is the public OK with OJ in their cereal bowl?

Our Test Your Idea report analyzes the profit potential of breakfast innovations

Milk and cereal might be a perfect pairing for many breakfast lovers, but according to a study conducted by Tropicana, 15 million Americans have tried orange juice in their cereal bowl. Perhaps the new “breakfast of champions” is actually the brand’s Tropical Crunch cereal that’s designed to be doused in OJ.

Should the limited-edition product become a mainstay in the cereal aisle, or is it better as a one-off launch? We used System1’s Test Your Idea platform, which showcases the predicted acceptance and profit potential of ideas, to see whether Tropicana can take a bite out of the competitive cereal and granola market.

A Spoonful of Success?

A 2019 survey of more than 43,000 Americans found that 96% buy cereal every time they shop for groceries and that sweet-tasting brand-name products are more likely to be the favorite than “nutty” or “fruity” types and generic versions.

While this research can shed light on broader consumer preferences, product developers and marketers need a way to know whether their specific innovation will make a mark with the public. Developing products requires extensive time and resources and this is further complicated by the fact that new foods often fall flat with consumers. In fact, 70 to 80% of new grocery items fail, according to University of Toronto Professor Inez Blackburn.

Is there a way to accurately predict which ideas will be successful and support brand growth, and which should be removed from the development pipeline? The answer is the “wisdom of crowds” methodology, which relies on insights from a sample of people to indicate the level of acceptance of the masses.  

Why does this work? Crowds are actually better at predicting success than more targeted groups of people because they don’t have a vested interest in the topic. To get the most realistic view of in-market profit potential for ideas, we ask 500 respondents that represent the general population their thoughts on new innovations.  

We inquire whether they would probably buy shares in an idea or sell shares, and analyze how long it takes them to make this decision. We also capture emotional response and combine these metrics to provide a Star rating that predicts the expected sales potential of each idea. The higher the Star rating, the more profit potential the idea has.

The Results are Cereals-ly Clear

We focused our testing on five different types of cereal and granola.

In addition to Tropicana’s new cereal, we tested Strawberry Banana Cheerios; Ketola Crunch granola; Misfits Plant-powered Choc Protein Cereal, a new innovation from the relatively new protein bar brand; and the special-edition Star Wars Frosted Flakes from Kellogg’s that promotes a new series on Disney+.

Both Cheerios and Frosted Flakes landed exceptional ratings in the 5-Star range. Respondents noted that strawberry and banana is a great flavor combination while still offering the health benefits of Cheerios. Meanwhile, the Frosted Flakes packaging and the collaboration with Star Wars won over many people.

It’s a different story for Tropicana Crunch, which took the 5th place slot with 1-Star. Using the Test Your Idea “wisdom of crowds” methodology, we were quickly able to understand the total market potential for Tropical Crunch. The score means the product would have no impact on sales if it were to be widely released. While some respondents noted that the product made them feel happy because it’s “different,” “refreshing” and “healthy,” the vast majority of people felt a negative emotion at the thought of pouring orange juice into their cereal bowl.

But perhaps this is all part of Tropicana’s brilliant marketing plan. Given that the brand’s survey demonstrates that just 4.5% of Americans try OJ with their cereal, it’s not surprising that the product may not be a fit for everyone. Maybe it’s why the beverage maker released the cereal as part of a campaign around National Orange Juice Day. By making the product available only around this niche holiday, they could tap into a specific audience and create scarcity with relative ease. 

Plus, the strong positive and negative reactions in our report highlight that it’s a product that makes people feel deeply one way or the other. Thus, it’s a product that is likely to get people talking on social media and within their social circles about whether they love it or hate it. Even people who traditionally eat cereal with milk might have felt compelled to give Tropicana Crunch a try. After all, there was only a limited window in which to get your hands on it.  

Despite the product’s low rating with the general public, Tropicana certainly scored a lot of media attention and brought a bit of fun (and controversy) to the cereal category. What might the next cereal innovation look like? With Test Your Idea, your brand can gain insight on which ideas are worthy of grocery store shelves.   

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