Consumer research in the early stages of new product development : issues and applications in the food domain

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


New products that deliver added consumer value contribute significantly to the success of companies. In the numerous studies of new product performance over the years, consensus has developed that understanding consumer needs is of paramount strategic value, especially in the early stages of the product development process. During these early stages, the product has not yet been specified and the aim is to search for novel product ideas from a marketing and technological perspective. Despite their importance, several studies indicate that consumer research methodologies are underutilised in the early stages of new product development. The aim of this thesis is to analyse key issues and develop and illustrate appropriate consumer research methodology at early stages of the new product development process, as this is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of successful product development projects.

Consumer research can be confirmative in its focus of testing new product concepts before launch and in this way prevents unjustified investments. Consumer research can also be proactive in that it aims to identify new product ideas that deliver against consumer needs that are not yet fulfilled by products currently in the market. Successful new product development requires a balance between both types of consumer research. The research in this thesis focuses on the optimal application of both types of consumer research in the early stages of the development process, in particular in providing guidance in generating and validating new product concepts. In the first chapter, the importance of new product development is presented and key factors of success and failure are discussed. Specially, the need for consumer research in the early stages is considered and criteria for effective strategic consumer research are outlined.

In chapter 2, ten frequently used methods and techniques to uncover unmet consumer needs and wants are critically reviewed. Each of the following empirical chapters focuses on a specific aspect of the problems associated with selecting and implementing appropriate consumer research in the early stages of the product development process. Chapter 3 presents a framework which allows obtaining relevant consumer and expert feedback in an early stage of the product development process. By systematically generating and rigorously screening a large set of product concepts both inside (experts) and outside (consumers) the company, the framework shows the extent to which experts and consumer agree about new product opportunities and in this way prevents that high potential opportunities are overlooked.

Chapter 4 illustrates the problem of successful functional food innovation. This chapter provides insight in a number of strategic decisions that have to be taken in the early stages of the development process in relation to health claim formulation, segment determination and product selection. Chapter 5 provides a comprehensive conceptual and empirical comparison of internal and external preference analysis. In addition to a comparison on statistical criteria, this study explicitly takes the end-user perspective into account by comparing both techniques on various end-user criteria. The final empirical chapter in this thesis (chapter 6) studies the added value of the innovation templates approach in generating and screening new product ideas. Chapter 7 summarizes the results of the previous chapters and describes the limitations of this thesis. Overall, the results of this thesis contribute to the better recognition of the importance of consumer research in early stages of new product development and suggest methodologies that could support effective marketing-R&D interfacing early in the process.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • van Trijp, Hans, Promotor
  • Luning, Pieternel, Co-promotor
Award date6 Jan 2006
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789085043300
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2006


  • new products
  • consumers
  • functional foods
  • product development
  • research
  • health foods
  • consumer affairs


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