Thought for food.

CPG food manufacturer considers a meal planning app

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A CPG food manufacturer with high name recognition has an idea to launch a meal planning app. But before they do, they want to better understand the meal preparation process and what meal planning issues are most important to families (especially moms).


Three key objectives are set:

1. Develop detailed personas for target consumers.
Develop a detailed narrative exploring her pet peeves, attitudes/beliefs, response to messaging, what she expects from a brand experience, her media habits and overall how she thinks, acts and makes decisions.

2. Identify the main aspects of the meal planning process.
Perform research to determine how the target consumer defines meal planning and the emotional responses she has to each step of the process and the overall experience.

3. Determine demand for meal planning app.
Define potential for the app by determining what features the target consumer expects and if the app can be monetized. Research answers questions to help determine if this “good idea” becomes a “let’s run with it” project.


This project is executed in two phases – a qualitative phase, followed by a quantitative phase. For both phases, two types of services are required:

Research Services (link to more info below)

Quality research is the foundation on which successful marketing decisions are made.  The Research Services contract is tailored to the specific project objectives to create a comprehensive base of knowledge.

In the first phase, an online discussion is used for initial exploration, category information and demand evaluation. In the second phase, a large sample online quantitative concept and demand study is used to predict the potential demand for the new meal planning app.

New Tech & Innovation (link to more info below)

To help better understand the market and the potential, in the first qualitative phase, digital ethnography is used. In the second phase, a netnography study obtains profiles of the best customer types for the meal planning app (See METHODOLOGIES below).


The following tools are used to execute the project:

Phase 1 – Qualitative

  • Online, in-depth discussion groups
    The initial research is an online discussion group of 15-20 women in the target category of family meal planners. In this online study, the respondents first discuss their category usage, perceptions, challenges and problems. In the second part of the discussion, they are presented with the concept of a meal planning app and respond to questions on its overall appeal, desired features, weaknesses, most resonating benefits and messaging, and purchase/usage intent. This moderated research event is conducted over a 2-3 day period. Each participant is required to log into the system twice per day to answer questions from the Discussion Guide. This provides the initial qualitative insights into the make-up of the category, a preliminary evaluation of the new concept, and insights into possible changes to enhance the app.
  • Digital Ethnography
    To acquire a more in-depth understanding of the meal planning market and the problems or challenges faced by women, a 2-3 day digital ethnography study is conducted using a proprietary mobile ethnography app. The mobile ethnography app for smartphones and tablets allows the research team to immerse themselves into the lives of the meal planners in a way that no other research tool can achieve.Over this 2-3 day period, participants record and show all that they do and encounter in their meal planning activities – who influences their decisions, which family members do they seek counsel from, what do they ask and talk about, how are meal decisions are made and who makes them, what challenges are there in meeting the family’s desires and expectations, where do they shop, how do they choose food and brands, etc. With this method, researchers are able to see the consumer and her family and hear the actual voices of the consumer. They capture rich, in-the-moment insights via user-generated video, photos, audio and text. This project provides a “day in the life” diary of 15-20 families and their meal planning experiences.

Phase 2 – Quantitative

  • Online quantitative concept and demand study
    To further verify the findings from the online discussion groups and the digital ethnography, an online quantitative study is conducted among a larger sample size of target audience consumers. This obtains attitudes, issues and usage in the meal planning category and presents the new app concept with key messaging to the respondents. The goal of this research is to validate the appeal of the meal planning app concept and be able to project a level of consumer demand prior to introduction.

  • Netnography study
    Netnography is social media research centered around a selected industry, business, or geographical area. For this project, the research team identifies the main target customer types by using a proprietary technology that enables them to collect, analyze, and aggregate all social media interactions of consumers in a selected area with a focus on meal planning. This proprietary technology “scrapes” huge volumes of geotagged social media data (photographs, videos, websites, status updates, emails, text mining, image analysis, social mining and more). Once this is collected, analysts then study the aggregated material and create profiles of who the most profitable customers are and how the food company will be able to attract them to the meal planning app. (Anyone who has seen the volumes of food photos on social media can imagine the success the team has using this tool!)The profiles developed for the meal planning app include the target customers’ demographics, attitudes, fears and pain points, goals and objectives, category knowledge, activities, influences, websites used, interests and hobbies and values.


(Due to the confidential nature of research projects and client agreements in force, specific results cannot be shared. Outcomes have been synthesized based on an amalgam of results from similar projects.)

The scope and depth of this project alone generates incredible value for the company. First, the company gains a thorough understanding of the meal planning process, including the challenges and rewards, from the most credible source possible – busy, meal-planning moms.

It also learns that the concept is a good one, and that there is more than enough demand to launch the meal planning app – which they do. The insights gained through the research process enable the company to design the app with features that appeal directly to the wants and needs of the target audience.

The company now has a “face” for its best customers. It has a brief description of each customer type and a description of her typical consumer behavior as it relates to meal planning and shopping. They are also ranked by profitability so the company can use the research when determining marketing emphasis and budget allocations.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, the company now knows what is important to its potential app customers when it comes to messaging and media usage because they were able to “listen” to their real social interactions. You can’t put a price on truly objective data.

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