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Uncovering the 4 Critical Needs of Canadian Shoppers Part 2: Innovation

Canadians are interested in trying new products and respond enthusiastically to innovation. In fact, this is a global reality: 7 in 10 shoppers surveyed in the 2013 BrandSpark Global Shopper Study agreed that they like to try new products. Shoppers’ interest in new products has been a consistent theme ever since we started conducting the BrandSpark Shopper Studies over 10 years ago. This is not surprising given the consumer notion that “new” really means “better”: 59% believe that research & development lead to better products[1]. It makes sense then that Canadian shoppers are on the hunt for new products that can improve their lives.


We have tracked shoppers’ perceptions of which products in the annual Best New Product Awards program are the most innovative and uncovered an interesting finding: among the products most strongly perceived as innovative, the majority offered benefits in the areas of health or convenience. For example, in the 2014 Best New Product Awards, the product most strongly perceived as innovative was Vaseline Spray & Go Moisturizer; offering easier and quicker application than other moisturizers. Another product that rated highly for innovation was the gluten-free Robin Hood Nutri Flour Blend; offering a gluten-free baking alternative from the brand Canadians most recognize for flour. In the world of CPG, these are just two of thousands
of innovations launched in the past year.



In recent years innovation has particularly accelerated in household care categories. Examples of products that embraced consumers’ openness to innovation, and in some cases even launched new categories, include Tide Pods, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, Febreze Car, Air Wick colour-changing candle air fresheners, OFF! application-free insect repellants, and many more.  These products offered appealing and useful new features, and many consumers felt that they received greater value for money, even though manufacturers were obtaining a premium in many cases. For example, Tide Pods nominally have a cost per load greater than that of traditional Tide detergent, but many consumers valued the convenience, and others noted that by avoiding ‘over-dosing’ (using more liquid detergent per load than the recommended amount) the new format was actually similarly cost effective to the older one.



In the beauty arena, mainstream trusted brands like Olay and L’Oréal have been battling ‘prestige’ beauty brands for market share. Following increasingly premium positioning from mainstream brands, 54% of women now feel that beauty products from these brands are just as effective as those from higher cost prestige brands[1].  Mass-market brands have also been making efforts to appeal to more consumers through bundled benefits and co-branding; the beauty market has seen a surge in co-branding activity with initiatives like the CoverGirl & Olay Simply Ageless collection of skin care products.



In the food arena, innovation regularly focuses on taste; not surprising given that 74% of shoppers name taste as the most important factor in their food purchasing decisions. Frozen pizza is a great case study, as Dr. Oetker introduced several taste innovations over the past decade, including the now dominant thin crust varieties, and competitors followed suit. The category exploded, and the old claims of  “restaurant quality” became believable. Meanwhile, many brands have addressed the demand for better tasting products by adding gourmet offerings to their product lineups, such as Wheat Thins expanded line-up for flavours including sweet potato and lime. Innovations like these have boosted their categories through strengthened taste benefits.




Another important area of innovation in the food category is health. The Greek Yogurt category, for instance, was propelled by the combination of improved taste and health benefits. It has exploded in the past 3 years and is now inspiring innovation in other categories, such as Greek Yogurt flavoured cereal.  We have also seen brands attempting to take their categories in a new direction, such as when Dempster’s added veggies to bread.  Again, adding useful benefits without sacrificing quality is the core of the value proposition. We’ll see whether consumers are ready to embrace this hybrid product for bread.

Several of the examples of product innovation above focused on two key themes: convenience and health, and how improving these attributes drove consumer value perceptions. Convenience, health, and value for money broadly represent the most important and stable needs of CPG shoppers worldwide. In our next installment, we will look more closely at the importance of specific health benefits to Canadians, and what Canadians are doing to live, and shop, healthier.

[1] [2]  As measured in the 2014 BrandSpark Canadian Shopper Study


 Robert Levy is President and Founder of BrandSpark International and the Best New Product Awards.  The Best New Product Awards is Canada’s most credible consumer voted awards program and is based on a nationwide survey of over 100,000 Canadian shoppers conducted by BrandSpark International.

Jan 31, 2014 | By Robert Levy | Tags:

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Thanks for joining Keeping Up with The Shopper, we are excited to share our industry insights with you.

Concerns? Contact us at 647-727-4575 or email us at

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