Over the last few weeks, we’ve presented several posts using data from UL’s annual study of manufacturers and consumers, The Product Mindset 2013. The topics of two of these posts, quality and the environment, made it onto UL’s list of the Top 10 Gaps between consumer and manufacturer mindsets.
The identified gaps, represented in the document at the right, also include product safety, health impact, environmental product impacts, supply chain transparency, traceability, ethical treatment of workers, and regulation. These topics represent areas where consumer beliefs diverge from those of manufacturers, representing an opportunity for manufacturers to improve consumer perception of their products and processes.
Which of the remaining gaps did the industry experts find the most interesting?
#3 – Innovation
Priscilla Taylor, a long-time personal care formulator, says, “For me, the ‘eyebrow raiser’ among these was the gap on Innovation. It’s important to communicate to consumers that a product is truly innovative so that it is not viewed as just another product line extension. Manufacturers are always pushing their technical teams to develop innovative products, but they should also always gauge consumer reaction to the new product before attaching the ‘innovation’ label.”
#10 – Regulation
Certified Food Scientist Jill Frank called out regulation as one of the most telling gaps, explaining, “With recent recalls impacting food products, consumers may hear of litigation involving executives in manufacturing and indirectly associate it with a need for more stringent regulation – consumers who make this connection may fear that their food supply is in jeopardy. Sensitive populations, including infants, those with gluten intolerances, etc., may also feel that more regulation needs to be included in the process to relieve concerns that they have about allergens in their foods.
Companies have additional layers of regulation tied to their manufacturing processes, i.e. SQF/TQM/organic, and new regulations are being put in place on a regular basis, such as the US Country of Origin meat labeling, and the upcoming regulations for gluten-free products. Manufacturers not only already deal with many regulations, but are in the process of adjusting processes to fit these newer ones. However, consumers may not yet have associated these new controls with changes in regulation.”
Why are manufacturers more confident than consumers?
Overall, the picture we get from the top 10 gaps is one of high manufacturer confidence in processes and products and consumer beliefs that are a bit more skeptical. When asked what they think accounts for this, both experts agreed that manufacturer intimacy with the entire product lifecycle gives them a higher comfort level. “Consumers are merely viewing a snapshot of the product lifecycle with their end use consumption,” states Frank. “This can be easily skewed to the positive or negative based on a single experience or hearing of a friend’s experience via social media, for example.”
So, what can product developers learn from the Top 10 Gaps?
Taylor gives these key takeaways:
- Listen to the consumer.
- Tailor products and marketing messages to address consumers’ needs.
- Ensure that there is a good product / concept fit.
Which of the Top 10 Gaps do you find most interesting and why? Click here to get involved in the discussion!
About The Product Mindset 2013
The Product Mindset 2013 is an annual study created to better understand manufacturer and consumer concerns and priorities about the products they make, sell, buy and use. Using data collected from 1,521 manufacturers and 1,528 consumers from the world’s top 10 largest economies, UL is able to offer compelling data that defines the collective mindset. The full report can be downloaded in detail at www.productmindset.ul.com.
The views, opinions and technical analyses presented here are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of UL, ULProspector.com or Knowledge.ULProspector.com. While the editors of this site make every effort to verify the accuracy of its content, we assume no responsibility for errors made by the author, editorial staff or any other contributor. All content is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced without prior authorization from Prospector.