February 24, 2008

The Challenge of Taking a Product Experience and Making it Convenient

It's very hard to replicate a food or beverage experience in a ready-to-eat or ready-to-drink format. There's a special ritual behind the preparation of a café latté, a wood-fired pizza or a brazilian caipirinha that becomes a tremendous challenge for companies that want to offer a convenient ready-to-consume version. From a simplistic standpoint, why not offer consumers their favorite food or drink from a supermarket shelf so they can have it in the comfort of their home anytime they want? The truth is, it's much more complicated than that. The reason is that consumers want the experience... the ritual of watching the barista, pizzaiolo, barman romance their craft... the customization of "skim milk please" or "add some kalamata olives" or "brown sugar instead of white". Customization makes people feel special and the good news is that, many times, they're willing to pay a premium for those little indulgent moments.

Which takes me to my neighborhood deli. This morning, I saw a cooler selling a product I hadn't seen before: sachets with ready-to-drink caipirinhas, called One®. The sachets come with different fruit versions from traditional lime to passion-fruit to mixed berries in either vodka and cachaça. Great packaging graphics, good communication of what the innovation was all about and a cool website. I like how they have found an innovative way to market a Brazilian classic. However, I can't avoid to be a little skeptical on whether this is a big idea or a niche. From a personal perspective, when I'm entertaining guests at home, I love the ritual of preparing caipirinhas with different combinations and hard-to-find cachaças. It makes the moment special. So I'm guessing I'm not the target. There could be potential, not only from Brazilians who value convenience, but as a great export product considering that non-Brazilians are less used to preparing the cocktail.

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