A “fail fast” approach to product development and launch is behind Fonterra’s decision to discontinue its BioKodeLab wellness brand six months after it came to market.
Aimed at gamers, the powdered formulation contained ingredients to help filter blue light for eye health, along with compounds to support brain health and reduce stress levels.
Fonterra’s innovation acceleration director, Stephen Elliott, said the co-operative has an “insurgent innovation” programme aimed at developing and quickly testing the success of new products, without having to commit to large production runs and full-scale marketing programmes.
BioKodeLab had been available only through direct orders, and digital marketing was the main media platform for promotion.
A 300g can of the product retailed for almost $60 and remaining stock was sold off in June at half price.
The product was the first to be run through the programme, and Elliott said some significant lessons had been learnt.
“When we launched, we were aiming at the gamer market. But we found it had strong appeal among corporate execs who were also aware of the effects of blue light from working in front of computers for long periods.”
He said the company had received a lot of feedback, in particular about the product’s taste. It was available in berry and tropical.
“The feedback was that we needed to change it.”
The product’s development was part of a process known as minimal viable approach, based on the premise customers can be provided with a new product that will be picked up by early adopters who in turn will provide feedback invaluable for the product’s larger scale development, or cessation.
“It is small batch, test and learn. It was in market for six months to validate the assumptions. At the end of six months, we could take a business case for further funding or not. We didn’t, but will recycle our learnings to use elsewhere.”
He said the proprietary bundles of ingredients can be applied elsewhere, both as ingredients in other companies’ products and in future Fonterra-developed ingredients.
“Corporate execs were buying it for cognitive performance and to support brain function. We absolutely believe that is a global wellness trend, and we can recycle BioKodeLab into that.”
At the product’s core are phospholipids, which are included in other brands, including Anlene and Anmum.
Elliott acknowledged such a wellness area is a risky one, but getting bigger every day.
Markets such as South Korea, with its ageing population, are drawing on a lot of Fonterra IP in developing products catering to the active living sector, for example.
He said future areas where the innovation programme may apply include gut health, healthy ageing, and lactose-free dairy products.