Innovation as a business imperative during a global pandemic

Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant and notable trend in at-home consumption and shoppers are looking for innovative new products to trial that are convenient and affordable. Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies across the world have needed to adapt to significant changes in shopper habits and consumer behaviours. Despite the tough operating environment due to pandemic-related disruptions and restrictions, ongoing innovation is a business imperative that should be prioritised, even during a global pandemic. 

According to a McKinsey & Company survey titled Reimagining consumer-goods innovation for the next normal, innovation pipelines need to be reset to help consumers thrive in their new reality.  Understanding and meeting the needs of changing consumer behaviour is a priority on Libstar’s innovation agenda.   

During 2020, listed group Libstar, launched or renovated a total of 624 products to the market. As one of South Africa’s leading CPG manufacturers and distributors, the group continued to partner its retail customers and invest in critical market insights that leverage key consumer lifestyle and category trends.

Libstar’s 2020 annual results recently reported a 4% increase in revenue – testament in part to its diverse portfolio of relevant, industry-leading products and brands. Critical to the resilience demonstrated by the group is also its brand solution strength, which includes Libstar brands, private label and dealer-own brands as well as principal brands across five distinct categories. 

Johan Greeff, Chief Growth Officer at Libstar says, “We’re passionate about innovation and across the Libstar family, we have numerous new product development teams that are dedicated to innovation throughout the year.”

He adds, “Libstar’s entrepreneurial spirit has and continues to contribute to our ability to adapt to changing consumer behaviours with continuous innovation and improvement across our diverse portfolio of over 9,000 products.”  This agility has underpinned innovation in the Libstar family during the times of COVID. Lockdown restrictions, work-from-home, and health concerns have concentrated people in their homes. This has contributed to an increase in at-home cooking and baking as consumers look to recreate their favourite take-away meals and restaurant-quality dishes in their own kitchens. Many of these lifestyle changes may well endure into the post-COVID future. 

Shelley Barnard, Marketing and New Product Development Manager at Cape Herb & Spice, a member of the Libstar family, says, “We’ve seen a clear jump in demand in the spices and seasonings category as consumers have changed their long-established shopping and usage habits. There is increased interest in global cuisine as consumers have looked to counteract lockdown food boredom and ‘travel through their tastebuds’. Of course, the family’s health has also been top of mind, so offering products free of perceived ‘nasties’ has been important.”

Getting to market with products that are relevant to consumers’ health concerns and goals was the driver behind LANCEWOOD®’s recent launch of two No Sugar Added yoghurt variants. Double Cream No Sugar Added Strawberries & Cream and Low Fat No Sugar Added Blackberry & Cherry have inspired LANCEWOOD® customers to actually request more No Added Sugar flavours from the company. 

Jeanne-Maré Africa, Marketing & Innovation Executive for LANCEWOOD®, also a member of the Libstar family, says, “Diversifying our product range by listening to consumers also prompted our latest launch of LANCEWOOD Piece ‘o Cake™ Cheesecake Mix. We know that many consumers love our LANCEWOOD® Cream Cheese as the star ingredient in their home-made cheesecakes. However, with the increased interest in baking at home during COVID, there are also many cheesecake lovers who find it too daunting to try out. LANCEWOOD Piece ‘o Cake™ Cheesecake Mix removes that anxiety and ensures that even beginner bakers can delight in a delicious home-made cheesecake.”

For the Libstar family, consumer-centric innovation and new product development will remain a group-wide priority as the world anticipates the post-COVID future. Change is the one constant the fast-moving CPG industry can be assured of and the future-proof industry leaders will be those who can adapt to meet the changes head-on.

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