Bread and the “Stats” of Life
Market forecasting works well when markets are stable: small consumer segments can be sampled and the results statistically applied to large national consumer segments. In this column, Best argues that today's consumer food market is far too fast changing, fragmented, and fungible to effectively accommodate traditional market analyses. As reality checks against developing traditional and potentially fatal market research assumptions, Best proposes the use of three additional simple and relatively low-cost market research techniques, framing these techniques in the context of bread industry futures. 1) Attend new retail food product shows: attend and walk the relevant trade shows to get a taste of new trends. 2) Track Internet traffic: Internet chatter data mining can provide indicators of and insights into new product and venue trends. 3) Walk retail outlets: walk through retail stores, ethnic markets, boutiques and shops, and farmers' markets and note their traffic patterns, product facings, and SKU trends. In addition, speak with store managers, and ask them what trends they've noticed. Don't be too quick to dismiss today's “fringe” trends that could define tomorrow's growth opportunities.