Our Talk at Flavorcon: Motivation Before Innovation


We were delighted to have the opportunity to speak at Flavorcon, 2017 (along with our colleague, Fernando Gomez Gonzalez of Inventit Consulting). Our presentation was called “Motivation Before Innovation,” and we shared how understanding consumer motivations can help food companies uncover viable innovation dig sites before they set off to cook up the next take on pumpkin spice.

The following are some key excerpts from our presentation, which was rooted in our Jobs to Be Won™ approach to segmenting audiences and sizing opportunities.

First, let’s start with our unique approach to strategic research: Instead of focusing on people’s perceptions of specific brands and products, we focus on what motivates people to engage with food and beverages in the first place, be it meals, snacks, desserts, beverage, gum or candy. That’s because while the consumption “solutions” people choose may vary, their underlying reasons for eating remain consistent over time. Understanding people’s motivations — or, “jobs to be done”— is key for growth, innovation and marketing.




We found there are eight core “jobs” in the Food and Beverage space that inform highly relevant and actionable innovation dig sites (see diagram above). Depending on your company’s goal, some are more winnable and valuable than others, and the process of identifying these winnable and valuable jobs is our proprietary method, called Jobs to Be Won™. Notice, also, in the chart above how there is tension across each of the points on the axes (for example, “Explore a Novelty” vs. “Satisfy a Craving”). These motivations stand in opposition to each other, which gets at the underlying psychology of eating. Whether we realize it or not, these tensions come into play each time we make a choice about our food or beverages!



As you can see in the chart above, there are 13.4 billion food and beverage occasions every week among U.S. adults. Twenty percent of them are motivated by the desire to “Connect and Comfort.” No wonder so much is made of “comfort food.”



Where people are, and the situations they are in when they seek a snack or beverage, matter. From this chart, you see which jobs are more likely to occur out of home vs. which jobs often occur at home. This helps explain why we sit at home and consume our favorite Ben & Jerry’s in front of the TV, but we try that new tempting treat while we’re out and about.


Sliced from a demographic perspective, Boomers and Millennials have some different general motivations when it comes to food and beverage consumption. But, that’s not the full story. We encourage our clients to look at the motivations in situational context. For example, Millennials are out of  their homes more often, and therefor over-index in the jobs that are more dominant in out-of-home situations. However, when Boomers are out of home in similar situations, they may very well have the same snack or beverage motivations as Millennials. An understanding of motivations in a situational context allows you to reach different customer segments in similar situations.



Let’s zoom in on beverage consumption: 54% of occasions include beverage consumption, and the biggest motivations for drinking beverages among U.S. adults are to Satisfy a Craving and to Connect and Comfort. If you were a beverage company, you could use this data to size your opportunity—and figure out which jobs you can and should win. Whether you are a beverage or food company, the most important advice we give is this: Don’t classify yourself as a solution—define the job you are going after. Also, look at the competitive set of the job, not the category.



Now we get to the part where your foundational work can come to life. Imagine if you prioritized Appreciate and Savor as an innovation dig site. How can Jobs to Be Won fuel your design criteria for innovation? Here is how you could break down the elements of that job (starting from the person — who in this hypothetical work plan happens to be a morning commuter who is an older millennial — to the actual design and distribution of the product). Meeting all of these criteria would become essential to winning the job of Appreciate and Savor. If you were to meet these criteria, you could confidently go to market with this product and expect a greater chance of success than if you were to go for it based on a attitudes-based survey that concluded that people might be interested in a pumpkin-chocolate-spice shake packaged in an edible cup. (The truth about those types of surveys: People rarely buy what they say they will!)

Jobs to Be Won™ is a proven, quanitifiable approach. Discover. Size. Prioritize. WIN.