With sales of children’s breakfast cereals under threat from both new product formats and from those who claim they contribute to childhood obesity, brands should use research to better understand the key messages on which marketing and communications should focus if they are to resonate more successfully with potential consumers.
Customer insight agency Engage Research says many brands undertake research but still fail to extract the insights from the data needed to make the exercise commercially valuable. And this at a time when figures suggest that last year in the UK, the second-largest cereal market in the world, volumes were up just 1%. The boxed cereal category for children has traditionally been particularly successful. According to Euromonitor, it accounts for £1.64bn in sales in the UK alone in 2011.
Engage claims its integrated approach blends its distinctive experiential qualitative technique ‘ALIVE’, with best in class quantitative metrics delivered by its new tool SCOPE. This allows the agency to gauge market opportunities of different messaging, product formulations or communications.
“If you look, for example, at children’s breakfast cereal brands, ask yourself what a product in this category needs to say about itself in order to maximise its chances of success?” said Engage Research director Hetta Bramley.
“Cereal manufacturers know that mums worry about nutrition, and that kids want taste, you don’t need research to tell you that. It is much more complicated. Often, for example, mums just want something kids will eat first and foremost, and, some just pay lip service to nutrition as long as they get something the children will eat quickly and without complaining so they can get them off to school as fast and easily as possible.”
Some mothers, says Bramley, do place nutrition higher up their scale of priorities but understand so little about it that just putting ‘no added sugar’ or similar on a pack may be enough to convince them. Emotionally, many do need health reassurances.
It is thought, however, that concerns over the nutritional content of children’s cereals will continue to impact on demand. With some health campaigners claiming they are high in sugar and salt and low in nutrients, brands must be able to demonstrate that their product does not fit this profile. In addition, there is growth in other areas of the breakfast category – cereal bars, breakfast biscuits and instant porridge – that give consumers options to move away from conventional boxed cereals.
“Mums are juggling a myriad of different and often conflicting needs,” said Bramley. “Research needs to do more than just identify these needs, it must also help indicate how to balance them all.”
Bramley says that, by weaving qualitative techniques into research, it is possible to deliver greater respondent engagement and involvement to produce a fresh, deeper consumer perspective.
“And then we use SCOPE to research those claims. This delivers insights and clear directions for brands on a range of business decisions from early innovation through to product and range optimisation through the fusing of preference scoring and statistical analysis. In short, it allows us to advise clients on what should be in their range. It features detailed diagnostics for each idea, claim or pack and enables us to ‘range make’ by identifying the optimum range, claims, or pack formats,” Bramley said.