New products should offer alternatives for consumers

Trending is not just about Twitter. The wise entrepreneur is constantly engaged in following trends and matching products or services that solving problems for the consumer.

A book like “Bowling Alone” by Robert D. Putnam offers insights into the demographic shifts evident in our mobile society. Activities that were once social occasions have been replaced by individual undertakings. Physical activities like walking and running, as well as reading and watching entertainment devices have replaced organized sports and getting together with friends to play cards or board games. Driving alone is also too common. About the only “social” activity is standing in line at a coffee shop.

Having tasted good coffee, I find that I have a need to start my day with something other than instant. I discovered ground-drip coffee was an excellent solution. Problem solved? No. First, paper filters are hard to separate and if they do not retain their shape, water will drip around the coffee rather than through. This results in weak coffee and a messy coffee maker. Second, the sound of grinding beans before having a cup of coffee is simply not tolerable and grinding the night before defeats the purpose of “freshly-ground”. Recognizing a consumer’s problem is always the first step.

Whatever could be the solution to this dilemma? Of all places I found that my bank offered single-serve coffee using the Keurig® K-Cup® System. While waiting in line for a teller (a.k.a. customer service representative), I tried the brewing system and found it to be amazingly quick, very simple and delightfully tasty. Of course going to the bank for morning coffee presents many problems of timing along with having to drive without having had coffee. Not only are home units are available, but the trend seems to be catching on.

Single-serve coffee is now 1/3 of ground coffee sales. What did not exist 15 years ago now has a very large share of the market. Many other applications have been adapted for the “coffeemaker”. Cocoa and apple cider single-serving cups are also available. And, wonder of wonders, you can even make tea! (Hot water and a tea bags are just too much work.) Is the consumer asking, “Save me some time?” Even organic Newman’s Own® has an offering of products. Not to be outdone, Campbell’s has come out with a line of soups that can be used in the system that is multi-purpose, ever-evolving and customer-driven.

The technology and financial investments to enable to use the system have been made. Now, how best to hitchhike on it? What is the market and how to communicate bundle of benefits that could use this system. Size it up. What royalties might be necessary? What technology might you have to have access to for production of a product? Michigan State University Extension educators, working with the MSU Product Center – Food, Ag, Bio, can assist aspiring food entrepreneurs to develop and follow through on their concepts.

Finally, you will be interested to know that Keurig® K-Cup® System with the MY K-CUP® reusable filter is available. Filter basket, filter holder and lid are included. It is called Solofill it is reusable and allows you to Brew any coffee you want with single-cup convenience! Simply put your own gourmet ground coffee in. Although somewhat inconvenient when you are in a hurry, it offers a good example of a company listening to the consumer for additional product solutions.

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