Being Adventurous – In Life & Food

April 27th, 2010

This past weekend I was in a wedding…in fact, I was the Best Maid (aka, a female Best Man). Since the groom and I had known each other since birth, it made perfect sense to me, him, and his wife. But others were unsure – it didn’t fit the mold.

The wedding was in “the city” – across the river from the safe New Jersey suburb everyone knew. Guests were nervous.

The reception was held not in a cookie cutter hall, but in a dance studio along a cobblestone street. And, in lieu of assigned seats, we mingled the entire evening throughout a variety of rooms (with ample seating, of course). Free to roam, guests were skeptical. “It will never work,” they said, “it’s going to be a disaster!”

But, it was beautiful. Just as the bride and groom knew it would. Their sense of adventure was just what their wedding needed. Everyone had a fabulous time. Cynicism gave way to acceptance. And acceptance quickly grew into enjoyment, as friends and relatives met each other for the first time, and danced the night away.

Just like life experiences, trying new foods can be a tricky endeavor, and may often require a bit of a push. A vegetable you’ve never heard of, a combination that sounds ridiculous, a preparation that seems foreign. Too often, we decide to play it safe, and just order the chicken fingers. (Nothing against chicken fingers – they tend to be one of my own personal favorites.)

On the menu, language helps. A dish that sounds so amazing, you just can’t resist. And in the grocery store, special promotions and sales are what get customers to say, “oh, what the heck, for a dollar I’ll give it a go.”

But as product developers, we cannot assume that words and discounts are enough. We also have to ease consumers into flavors they never heard of. While launching an exotic flavor for a niche product – something targeted to a specific ethnic group, or even healthy foods niche – can work out well, doing the same on a mainstream launch can prove less profitable. When flavors are still unknown, it is best to blend them with familiar flavors to help introduce the audience to the concept. While the wedding was different than the norm, there were still many elements that were traditional, which kept guests at ease.

There are excellent examples of products, past and present, that have pushed the envelope, while keeping it familiar. A few that come to mind are: the classic Kiwi-Strawberry Snapple, the new Eclipse Breeze gum with cardamom, and the still-catching-on Vosges Mo’s Bacon Chocolate Bar. All delicious. All fun. All adventurous.

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