Saturday, January 31, 2009
Variety: The Spice of Life
Howard Moskowitz, set up shop in the seventies, with Pepsi as his first client. They hired him to try and find the perfect ratio of sweetness for their new Diet Pepsi product. Moskowitz tried numerous variations but didn't seem to come up with any results.
Soon he realized, "They had been asking the wrong question. There was no such thing as the perfect Diet Pepsi. They should have been looking for the perfect Diet Pepsis."
In short, this means that Moskowitz discoverd that there is no one perfect product that will fit the taste opinions of a whole population. Everyone has their own different opinion of what a "perfect" sweetness balance should be. Pepsi chose to ignore him.
The article goes on to explain how Moskowitz took his theory to Cambell's who was trying to enter the spaghetti business with Prego.
Standard practice in the food industry would have been to convene a focus group and ask spaghetti eaters what they wanted. But Moskowitz does not believe that consumers—even spaghetti lovers—know what they desire if what they desire does not yet exist. “The mind,” as Moskowitz is fond of saying, “knows not what the tongue wants.” Instead, working with the Campbell’s kitchens, he came up with forty-five varieties of spaghetti sauce. These were designed to differ in every conceivable way: spiciness, sweetness, tartness, saltiness, thickness, aroma, mouth feel, cost of ingredients, and so forth. He had a trained panel of food tasters analyze each of those varieties in depth. Then he took the prototypes on the road—to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Jacksonville—and asked people in groups of twenty-five to eat between eight and ten small bowls of different spaghetti sauces over two hours and rate them on a scale of one to a hundred. When Moskowitz charted the results, he saw that everyone had a slightly different definition of what a perfect spaghetti sauce tasted like. If you sifted carefully through the data, though, you could find patterns, and Moskowitz learned that most people’s preferences fell into one of three broad groups: plain, spicy, and extra-chunky, and of those three the last was the most important. Why? Because at the time there was no extra-chunky spaghetti sauce in the supermarket. Over the next decade, that new category proved to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Prego.
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The point is to be thankful that we have choices!