Is failure more important than success?

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
24 April 2007, at 1:00am

NORWAY - "If you want to succeed with new seafood products, it's as important to learn from your mistakes as to admire your successes", say Scientists Geir Ottesen and Finn-Arne Egeness.

Product development is a risky business, and times are far between each time the companies produce seafood products that are really successful. Fiskeriforskning has studied why some products are successful while others fail.

Product development is a risky business. Fiskeriforskning has studied why some products are successful while others fail.

"Many more attempts at product development fail than succeed. After a failure, it's common for companies to become more cautious", says Senior Scientist Geir Ottesen.

"But if they don't take time to analyse and understand what specifically went wrong, it's easy to repeat the same mistakes."

Why does it go wrong?

Products that do not sell enough are quickly removed from the shop shelves. Both fresh fish au gratin and pre-prepared dishes with cod and salmon, amongst others, have been tested without success, while the idea for a vacuum-packed mussel product did not even reach the shops.

"Ideas that come from the companies themselves and aren't based on what the market wants, often fail. We also have examples of failed products that were created on the basis of positive input from shop managers, but that didn't catch on with the consumers", continues Ottesen.

Optimistic market surveys that exclude the consumer can thereby send the companies on a wild goose chase.

A product that recently disappeared was fresh salmon and whitefish packaged under the brand name "Marian". The product failed despite the fact that the big companies Tine, Fjordland and Aker Seafoods had invested heavily in a seemingly good product.

There can be several reasons why a seafood product does not sell. For fresh fish products, the relatively short shelf life can cause them to expire before they can be sold, especially in small shops. These products can be more suitable for shops with many customers, such as in cities and large shopping centres.

Learning from their mistakes

The study includes four types of companies in Norway: fishmongers, seafood producers, large producers such as fillet companies, and finished product manufacturers. Many of the companies in the study appear to have learned more from their failed products than from the successes.

"In this way, failures can also lead to something positive, but the companies have to spend time analysing why things didn't go as expected", says Egeness.

"But it surprised us that the companies were so little concerned about learning from others' failures."

To avoid being caught in the trap, the scientists recommend that the companies play "the Devil's Advocate" in all phases of the product development process. It can be particularly useful to ask critical questions about positive and established "truths". Positive feedback from one shop manager does not necessarily mean that the consumers will also buy the product.

That little extra something

When it comes to the success criteria, the scientists have several answers to what succeeds. The product should be something new that is based on the actual needs and wants of the customers - chefs, grocery chains and consumers. In addition, the product should add something "extra" at an acceptable price, and have nice packaging.

Good taste is still important, and the food should be easy to prepare. Focus on health-related benefits should also be brought out as being beneficial, and if the products gain entry in grocery chains, there is a good chance for success.

The project was financed by the Research Council of Norway.