Sir: I find the 45% downturn in new innovation launches cited in The Grocer Top Products Survey 2012 concerning (‘A great year for sport. A washout for grocery’, 15 December 2012). Isn’t innovation still supposedly the lifeblood of any successful business? Where else will growth in such challenging market conditions come from?

The survey brings home just how many brands played safely to category rules over 2012 rather than innovating to drive real commercial growth.

Businesses need to identify ‘emotionally’ enlightening growth platforms and unlock new channels. Only by discovering new category, trade or consumer angles, will they gain significant differentiation. Brands need to meet a real need better than anyone else. If not, why should people engage with and buy them? It’s not just about new products, either.

Part of the challenge is that brands start out well, but over time lose focus on what makes them different. Innovation that delivers growth and ROI needs the right challenges to be identified, the right questions asked to define the right brief and commercial due diligence to identify the real market gap. That’s before even embarking on defining solutions.

Claire Nuttall, founding partner, Thrive