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The Mix

The Mix: Because You've Never Met a More Engaged Consumer Than a Pet Parent


Welcome back to The Mix, where we provide a little info, a little insight, and always some interesting stories occurring in and around the consumer goods industry. In this issue: 

  • Better Choice Company is bringing people-food expectations to the pet sector
  • Alexa gets her hands dirty so consumers don't have to 
  • Maybe your boss/report/colleague/commute isn't actually so bad ...

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ryan wilson

Ryan Wilson, Marketing VP, Better Choice Company

We chatted with Wilson about the pet company’s brand revival, new consumers trends, and how they’re using tech to seize on them.

Tell us about Better Choice.
We compete in the pet space: pet food, treats, supplements. We have the Halo and TruDog brands in our portfolio right now. Long term, it'll just be the Halo brand; we're actually integrating TruDog into Halo. It’s a brand that has some good brand equity associated with it, but has lacked a vision for innovation over the last 5-10 years, so we have a new leadership team in place with our key objective of becoming the most innovative pet food company in the world. We saw an opportunity to take trends that we're seeing across food and beverage and apply those to the pet landscape.

Can you dig into some of those trends and how you’re acting on them?
First and foremost is providing best-in-class nutrition. We wanted to make sure we're using consumer insights. Female millennials are our key consumer target, which is actually a different consumer than who has traditionally bought Halo products before.

Transparency is one that's prevalent across the human food landscape, but really hasn't entered in the pet space to the same degree. On the front of our bag, we're actually breaking down the percent of ingredients that are driving the protein in the product, and it's a really clear, concise way of communicating. In addition, we detail on our website where each ingredient in our product is sourced.

Related Infographic: A New Day For Retail Execution

The last trend is simplicity. If you look at the pet landscape, the key takeaway that we continue to get from pet parents is [that] people are confused by pet. It’s a nutritional arms race, where everybody is saying different messages that aren't really founded on consumer insights, to the degree of understanding what they need from a health standpoint. We're trying to break through the clutter and be very simple in how we communicate to give people confidence that our product is the best.

How do you use technology to engage with your consumers?
We use a form of technology that uses crowdsourcing to give us almost real-time consumer insights. It's a tool that we use to do monadic packaging testing, and rather than the normal lead time of being in market for a month, having the research company do two weeks of data analysis, and then getting back to us two months later, we're actually able to launch on our own in this tool and get insights within the next day or two.

We use that for optimization of our packaging and our product. For our claims, I can plug in any type of question I have for pet parents; I can target them in our system and quickly gain insights to help us optimize in real time any real element that we want to build into our products.

You’re also using QR codes?
The pet industry is interesting in the form of retail recommendation being very important to help drive brand success. There's a lot less retail associates and salespeople in stores [now], so we wanted to identify ways to still connect with the pet parent at retail when they’re most apt to be influenced.

We have QR codes on the back of our bags and shelf signage that you scan with your phone. Then there's an environment hosted by a dog that takes you through the experience, and it allows you to understand in a succinct way what [the brand] is all about. The dog will take you through the five nutritional pillars that we’re delivering on. We have a comparison chart vs. the top competitors, and there's an FAQ element, where if you have questions, you can in real-time ask us through our website.

Lastly, we have a $5-off coupon you can get through the experience by signing up for an email program, and it immediately sends you a coupon. The technology replaces, essentially, a lot of sales associates that would be needed in-store to help connect.

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Sample Size

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For Your Radar


Listen. Learn. Grow. 

Have you checked out our Tech Transformation podcast? We release episodes regularly, highlighting the innovative technology strategies retailers and consumer goods companies are executing to meet the needs of their consumers.

We’ve got a great lineup ready for binge listening. Here’s just a quick look at some of our recent episodes:

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Innovation Inspiration

ge profile 950Front Load 950 With Smart Dispense, Stain Guide, and AI-Powered Wash; Credit: GE

Alexa is everywhere, and now she's getting her hands even dirtier. Though this isn't the virtual assistant's first foray into the laundry room, GE's new machines are looking to create even more personalized and smarter experiences. Consumers can ask Alexa to name specific fabrics such as blankets, cashmere, jeans, or  gym clothes, as well as identify types of stains like “chocolate bar,” “deodorant,” or “pinot noir” in queries, and the machine will automatically adjust settings based on the request.

The tech gets even smarter — particularly where the SmartHQ app gets involved. With a Smart Dispense feature, users can scan their detergent type into the app and the washer will dispense an accurate amount of detergent. Thanks to smart sensors, the machines also measure soil and detergent levels to cut down on wash times. All this info goes straight to consumers — they can get alerts and software updates via the app, as well as manage their loads remotely. 

When it comes to laundry innovation, though, we have to ask: When is Alexa going to be more like the Foldimate

Have a product, marketing, or packaging innovation you think we should spotlight? Reach out.

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From the Feed

The Last 30,000 Feet

Fulfillment is rapidly transforming, and Amazon is eager to own the skies. The company, which has been working on drone delivery for nearly a decade, shared details into the "sense and avoid system" that leverages object-detection algorithms to identify pesky things like aircraft and chimneys. Consumers living in Lockeford, Calif., will be among the first to receive drone deliveries as soon as this year, provided they pass the backyard-inspection test Amazon conducts by sending an employee to visit the home. Upon passing, orders can be placed as usual on Prime Air, with ETA provided via a status tracker. The drone will then descend upon to the consumer’s backyard  hovering at a safe distance before releasing the package and rising back up to altitude. Read more at RIS News.

Measure Twice, Jump Once

Though the labor market remains tight, workers are feeling less confident when it comes to the amount of leverage they have in the hiring landscape or even within their current workplace. With unease of a potential recession bubbling, recruiters say that conversations are shifting from a need for flexibility to that of security. (With all that said, competition for talent remains unprecedently fierce, especially in tech.) Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

The Millennial Consumer Subsidy Is Over (The Atlantic)

Unilever Switches Some Ingredients to Adapt to Commodities Shortages (Reuters)

U.S. vs. China: The Rules and Design Shaping the Metaverse (WSJ)

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Subscribers to The Mix are the first to receive each issue, along with special offers for our events and early looks at our research.