A snack-size opportunity

In a world where people are busier than ever - juggling careers, home life, and the desire to be fit and healthy - the small convenient meals market has not only expanded, but carries increasing significance. In its plight to take advantage of this lucrative space, FMCG giant Nestlé had begun studying opportunities for expansion. The problem? This domain is broad, to say the least, so crafting a product that would offer something new wouldn’t be easy. Would it be a snack, soup, noodles, or a salad? Nestlé asked Innoleaps to help define its ideation, using key research techniques to identify what consumers who were on the hunt for convenience really wanted.

Healthy convenience

To help narrow down Nestlé’s creative process, we started broadly with some key requirements in mind. The key was that the end product had shelf stability so it could be stored in consumers’ cupboards for extended periods. And so our first step was to conduct interviews with the general public to uncover people’s eating habits. Questions asked included: “when do you crave and eat these smaller meals?” and “what’s the occasion: is it at home, the office, or on the go?”. The verdict? General consumers were eating to curb cravings, but most found the majority of convenient meals on the market were fast to prepare but pretty unhealthy. The bottom line: people are fed up with artificial tasting convenient foods that contain high levels of sugar, fat, and salt; they want something fresh and tasty without requiring lots of time to prepare it. This defined our goal, to create something that’s efficient but not bad for you, what we refer to as “health convenience”.

Realizing what consumers wanted, our next step was to find out our value proposition. So we set about testing the idea through prototyping. We did several brainstorm rounds with some external individuals and chefs within Nestlé and came up with around 100 solutions. Three key formats emerged: salads, super soups, and low-carb meals (replacing carbohydrates with vegetables).

By generating mock online ads on Facebook for each product and identifying which type of meal performed best in driving traffic to our website, we were able to pinpoint which meal came up trumps for market feasibility. The low-carb option was the clear winner.

The shop test

A clear target had been set: create a healthy instant meal that’s easy to make. To do this, we looked at using vegetable ingredients over meat and alternatives such as vegan dehydrated chicken pieces. We also sampled different storage techniques, such as freeze-drying, which can bring storable food to life with some hot water and a good stir.

Based on this, the chefs created 3 low-carb recipes: Asian Teriyaki with chickpea noodles, cauliflower rice with yellow curry, and a veggie Chili Sin Carne with soy protein. Each was plant-based, eco-friendly, and easy to make with a long shelf life. 

The first concepts were placed in 60 stores across Germany to form our “shop test”. This will help to categorize sales volumes, define the best price point, and check if there is a real appetite for the product. If all indicators look promising, a roll-out is planned for the near future under the new MAGGI sub-range ‘Greens Up, Carbs Down’. 

Another real success of this project was the team dynamics between Nestlé and Innoleaps, and how we worked in sync to create this product by bringing a start-up mentality to a corporate environment; helping the company open up to new concepts and try new avenues.