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Whilst the term ‘modisumer’ may not necessarily be familiar to everyone, there are millions of them that lurk among us. From the friend that sprinkles muesli on to their yoghurt to the colleague that insists on fusing ketchup and mayonnaise to create their own special sauce, modisumers have become an increasingly important source of innovation for food brands worldwide. A phrase recently coined in South Korea, modisumer – a combination of the terms ‘modify’ and ‘consumer’ – has taken the country’s food industry by storm, but is the phenomenon really isolated to this part of the world, or is there something much more significant taking place?
There is a lot of money in the packaged food market – US$2.3 trillion to be precise – but finding new food product formats and flavours that sell well enough to be commercially successful is an unenviable and challenging task. Consumer tastes change over time, as does the ‘cuisine du jour’, and keeping up to date is easier said than done. It is estimated that at least 75% of new products launched end in withdrawal and ultimately commercial failure. In many ways the purpose of market research/intelligence is to minimise that risk of failure by ‘knowing the consumer’. By monitoring the actions and behaviour of the modisumer, food brands may be able to increase the size of the prize by providing a product for which demand has already been observed. This is exactly what many South Korean noodle companies have been doing recently, and it is working.
Earlier this year a new type of noodle was born. On yet another bizarre television show somewhere in Seoul, a contestant created ‘opageti’ by fusing together the two noodle brands Ojingeo Jjambbong and Jjapageti. The following week, Korean noodle giant and owner of the two opageti brands, Nong Shim, announced that its weekly sales had surged by triple digits. Clearly, the new noodle creation had struck a chord with consumers. Despite the numerous noodles available to Korean consumers there was still demand for something that previously did not exist.
The peanut butter and jam combination is perhaps a more familiar example of food brands learning from modisumers. The widespread use of peanut butter in combination with jelly/jam was eventually picked up by the food industry and premixed products such as Smucker’s Goober Grape began to appear on the shelves, offering consumers what they were already trying to create.
A more recent example, using two of the most on-trend food fads of the day, is the YoCrunch Cereal Bowl. Backed by cereal company Kellogg and dairy player Danone, the new product includes a serving of Greek yoghurt with a compartment of RTE cereal. Driven by an observation that many modisumers in the US were frequently adding their own cereal to yoghurt in the morning, Kellogg and Danone have gone one step further by catering for the deskfasting trend by offering it as an ‘on-the-go’ snack.
There is much to learn here. Clearly, we can sit around in food laboratories for days concocting bizarre new Brazilian ‘World Cup’ flavours because we think that is what consumers might want, or we can do something different. The term modisumer may not exactly roll off the tip of the tongue but it is clearly going to leave a lasting taste for many innovators in the food industry. Either way, definitely some food for thought.