Editor’s note: Ian Elmer is the U.S. managing director of PRS IN VIVO, leading the U.S. client development and qualitative teams.

The urban legend is that despite testing, the failure rate for new products launched in the grocery sector is 70-80%. Nielsen has put the number as high as 85% for CPG. 

There are certainly legendary failed products that in hindsight leave us wondering, “What were they thinking?” 

Orbitz Soda (arguably reminiscent of a lava lamp) was introduced in 1997 by The Clearly Food & Beverage Company of Canada, makers of Clearly Canadian, and discontinued in 1998 due to poor sales. While we may all have our opinions on the concept, it endures as a cautionary tale for what not to launch. 

But even if you are launching a product that stems from a good insight into consumers’ unmet needs, the historical odds of success are still not in your favor. 

In an article published by Forbes, Blake Morgan listed 10 notable new product introductions of that year that failed. Morgan ends the article with the following: 

“Launching a new product is always a gamble but taking time to research customers and the market and test the product can help avoid potential future failures.”

Of course I would endorse that view. But I would also take it a step further, and perhaps flip the narrative.  

If the goal is simply reducing risk, I argue that you are potentially missing a trick. The impact of optimizing a new CPG product and tipping it toward success, be it a simple line extension or a radical innovation, can be amplified if you expand your validation and embrace a greater understanding of context.

Understand product packaging in the context in which the consumer sees it in the retail environment, which is much more broadly described today as omnichannel, encompassing brick-and-mortar, e-commerce and the intersection of the two. In addition, you must remember ...