>> It’s time to bring in some genuine innovation


Hans-Joachim Körber, the boss of Metro, one of Germany’s top retail groups, created a bit of a stir at this year’s Anuga trade show in Köln with some very acute observations about the state of the manufacturing sector, one of which concerned a lack of genuine innovation.
“Everyone needs to understand that the introduction of the 10th or 11th variant of a product already on the market cannot make up for the current lack of truly new products,” Körber told an event at the show.
Walking around the halls at Anuga (no mean feat as there are 14 of them!), I could see what Körber meant. It was striking just how many of the ‘new’ products being touted by suppliers this year were either tired me-too versions of existing innovations or reformulations.
Anuga has historically always been the place to go if you wanted to spot product ideas from around the world. And we did find some great new concepts and spotted some fascinating trends, as you can read in our report on page 72 and in the stories posted on our web site during the show. But very few of the thousands of products on display had what I call the ‘wow’ factor.
I bemoaned the lack of genuine innovation in this column two years ago after visiting the last Anuga. So it was disappointing to come away feeling much the same this time round - and then to hear that one of Europe’s leading retailers had been warning that this lack of NPD was turning off consumers.
Sure, Germany is very different to the UK. It has serious problems with its economy, which is making life pretty tough for both suppliers and retailers, as is the growing power of the hard discounters (something we discuss on p35). But we share some things in common: a deflationary grocery market, a retail environment that is polarising and, almost certainly as a result of these two factors, a serious lack of NPD on the part of suppliers.
Should we worry about all this? Well, as Körber says, retailers know it’s products that are new, fun and exciting that really grab the attention of consumers and persuade them to spend a little bit more. Get it right and genuine innovation in product or packaging, or both, is the best way we know for suppliers and retailers to add value to their food and drink ranges and so grow their businesses. I can’t be alone in thinking that it would be great to see more NPD happening again.
Where’s the wow facTor?