>>too many businesses play safe with me-toos and brand exensions

As you can see from the letters published opposite, and the story in our drinks pages this week, Mark Murphy’s comments about the worrying lack of npd in the drinks market has sparked plenty of debate.

Murphy says 2004 has probably been the poorest year on record for innovation and we would tend to agree. His comments certainly resonated with the team here at The Grocer which has been busy putting the finishing touches to our Top Products Survey, which we will publish next week. They too have found a worrying lack of NPD in many categories - not just alcohol.

Sure, we have seen plenty of interesting pack formats, me-too products and brand extensions. But very little that could be described as genuinely new.

Identifying this as an issue is one thing, understanding why there is such paucity of truly exciting grocery NPD coming to market is altogether more tricky.

Blaming retailers is easy - although there is no doubt in my mind that npd is suffering partly because value is being stripped out of so many categories, leaving less cash to invest in innovation. But manufacturers also need to look at themselves. Sure, NPD is a risky business. Nevertheless, too many firms are playing it safe with products that are neither new nor true developments. Could that explain why so much so-called NPD fails?

Murphy says drinks suppliers should be trying to come up with the next widget. But everybody needs to redouble their efforts to find breakthrough innovations that excite consumers and add value. Even though finding them must sometimes feel as if you are searching for the Holy Grail.

My column last week about online auctions prompted a couple of contacts to call me to share their recent experiences. Both recounted similar tales of pretty unprofessional behaviour on the part of buyers - all of which had made them deeply suspicious of the online auction process. I think everybody accepts - albeit reluctantly in many cases - that e-auctions are a fact of life. But to get the most out of this still relatively new tool - and their suppliers - buyers really do need to start using online auctions properly.
npd and the holy widget
the buyers’ tale