FOOD INNOVATION: How to win over the customer

Inventing the delicatessen of the future

At Gourmet Selection last September, several entrepreneurs came together to discuss the customer experience and food innovation. The fine food sector is reinventing itself, and retail still has plenty of assets to resist the pressure of online commerce.

Elie and Coralie from the agency Cent Degrés, Paul-Henri, the cofounder of the brand Le Chocolat des Français, Isabelle, the founder of the event management agency Saveurs d’étoiles and Shanty, the creator of personalised biscuits, presented their background and current business activities.

CENT DEGRÉS: FROM PERFUME TO LUXURY FOOD, POLY-SENSORIALITY

Agence Cent Degrés has demonstrated the importance of marketing and food innovation for gourmet products. Its first example is the Peugeot pepper mill. The company Peugeot Saveurs existed before the car company of the same name. Based in Besançon, it manufactured and sold knives and the famous pepper and spice mills.

To reposition Peugeot Saveurs, Agence Cent Degrés proposed a visual change. Then, combining Peugeot’s image of technical prowess with the taste of pepper and spices, the mill is totally redesigned: convenient, with a wide opening. The user experience of the pepper mill is improved to change the Peugeot Saveurs image.

Its second example of food innovation is that of the food manufacturer Senoble. Specialising in yoghurts, Senoble wanted to move into consumer cakes and pastries. To launch the range, Agence Cent Degrés reworked Senoble's identity and packaging.

In terms of food innovation, the design work accompanies the change of business model and the evolution of the company. The repositioning is easier when the team does not come from the delicatessen sector. Agence Cent Degrés comes from the beauty and luxury goods sector. The company has notably designed Cartier fragrances sculpted inside. The spirit is the same: perfumery and luxury food share the same appeal to customers' five senses.

ISABELLE AND SAVEURS D’ÉTOILES: FROM OLFACTORY PYRAMID TO TASTE PYRAMID

Also from the luxury perfumery industry, Isabelle worked on the olfactory pyramid, i.e. the three stages of a fragrance: top note, heart note, base note. Isabelle reproduces this concept for pastry. She asks her chefs to work on these three notes, creating a taste pyramid.

Food innovation also involves an in-mouth experience. In this respect, the sensation of texture is added to the three notes. Moreover, since 2012, under Isabelle's leadership, chefs and perfumers have been working together. The customer experience created by Isabelle goes even further with KISS, a sensory immersion cocoon that mobilizes all five senses. This cubicle made of Japanese paper reproduces atmospheres, just like memory triggers, which brings to life a smell, a taste or memories.

PAUL-HENRI AND LE CHOCOLAT DES FRANÇAIS: CHOCOLATE AND MASTERPIECES 

The birth of Le Chocolat des Français comes from the following observation: in the world of chocolate, there are the great creators with their top-of-the-range offering, but with old and understated communication, and the industrial brands with outlandish communication for products of lesser quality.

Le Chocolat des Français intends to be the ideal mix between these two strategies. With an academic background in art, the founders develop their food innovation through packaging decorated with a work of art, paper bearing an illustration that you have to tear before you can enjoy a bar that lives up to its packaging. Over the past five years, 500 artists have contributed illustrations to these packs, including some celebrities like Zep, the creator of Titeuf.

There is only one constraint in the specifications: to evoke France and its culture. With their French touch, the chocolate makers stake their claim to the wealth and heritage of French chocolate.

SHANTY AND HER BISCUITS: YOU HAVE A MESSAGE

Harnessing social media, Shanty, a young entrepreneur, has been running her biscuit business for six years thanks to her website. But food innovation also involves communication. She relies mainly on her community on Facebook and Instagram. Her brand sells cookies with a personalised message for hen parties, weddings, job interviews, etc.

All words are allowed and her community can identify itself in the little messages on the cakes. To make her cookies, Shanty uses standard machines on which she has installed a new process.

The messages are the first objective, but the brand still pays attention to how it makes its biscuits. There are a dozen sweet flavours, and a savoury range is planned for the near future. Shanty's customers include Chanel, Yves Saint-Laurent and Air France.

RETAIL STILL HAS ASSETS TO BEAR COMPARED WITH ONLINE SALES

Online shopping is on the rise. In the luxury goods sector, online shopping accounts for 8% of the market, and is expected to grow to almost 20%. Nevertheless, retail is also growing strongly and more and more people are talking about the customer experience. The brand must display a visual, a material, a logo... and mobilise all the senses.

Agence Cent Degrés had rethought Cartier's retail experience for its perfume department by devising a fountain to fill up samples in front of the client. In the same way in the food industry, delicatessen must rely on food innovation for its customer experience, to bring an atmosphere and emotions to its consumers.

THE SUCCESS OF POP-UP STORES

Le chocolat des Français converted the try of the pop-up store, banking on food innovation.  The chocolate brand invites illustrators to come and personalise packs of chocolate live. The experience is different to the website and even offers added value, since 70% of retail sales in the luxury goods sector start off with an online product search. Being able to see the product in-store is the deciding trigger for the purchase.

However, sales are not always the primary objective. Shanty, for example, has organised a pop-up store, not to sell her biscuits, but to invite people to taste them by creating a crazy universe: the Shanty motel, with swimming pool, cocktails and biscuits in the shape of a hotel key. Adding a partnership with a nail polish brand (OPI), Shanty establishes her brand in a playful spirit.

Saveurs d'étoiles confirms this strong trend, which brings know-how and craftsmanship back to the fore. The events where the public is involved must provide a memorable experience. Scenography is becoming crucial for chefs and delicatessen dishes.

Food innovation must serve the customer experience. It must promise emotion, memory, authenticity, conviction and meaning. From now on, the consumer wants to be proactive and go beyond the distant and cold aspect of online delicatessen. The latter must even rethink its traditional delicatessen terminology. Online and retail customers speak the same language, so bridges must be built between the two categories.

Speakers: Shanty, SHANTY BISCUITS ; Paul-Henri Masson, LE CHOCOLAT DES FRANÇAIS ; Isabelle Racine, SAVEURS D’ETOILES and Elie Papiernik, CENT DEGRES