It is a challenge for today’s marketers to position their products and innovate within a complex market structure of multiple adjacent categories vying for share of stomach at many different occasions. To address this, the authors tried a new approach: Instead of segmenting consumers and mapping the value proposition to a “consumer type”, they explored opportunities across different “occasion types”. They will discuss this work in depth at CRC, October 8-10 in Orlando.

Kids’ nutrition, especially in the early stages of development, is an extremely important concern for most mothers. It is common amongst moms in the U.S. to talk about the growth percentile of their child. While the metric may change between different countries, the importance of nutrition and its impact on the growth and development of children is universal. Abbott’s objective was to understand the varied nutrition-related needs among moms in international markets.

Moms have a variety of nutritional solutions at their disposal. A mom can give a yogurt as a breakfast staple but she can later use the same yogurt as nutritional occasion (i.e. a healthy snack with probiotics and calcium). There are several different occasions like this during the day, each of which can contain a different competitive set comprised of direct replacement products as well as adjacent category alternatives.

Traditional methodologies, such as a U&A, would aggregate mom’s attitudes, beliefs and actions regarding nutrition, not allowing to differentiate how food, drinks and supplements play different roles at different times. This is further compounded by the explosive growth of nutritional products in the market.

Today, consumers have a variety of products to choose from based on needs and format choices at different occasions throughout the day. There has been a paradigm shift going on in food and nutrition, with those categories encroaching on each other’s space.  Consumers can use healthy or functional foods, supplements and even wellness services to fill the same needs.  It is a challenge for today’s marketers to position their products and innovate within a complex market structure of multiple adjacent categories vying for share of stomach at many different occasions. 

There are two main benefits of conducting an occasion-based market structure:

  • An occasion-based study allows you to identify opportunity spaces and quantify them, as well as locate opportunities even in a saturated market (through targeting adjacencies)
  • The ability to identify the differentiating needs and attributes between brands – looking beyond the value proposition. An occasions study helps us understand how consumers differentiate brands and products in different  consumption occasions

Detail: Understanding the Technique

How to define a consumer with many hats: Each consumer is viewed as several consumers because each occasion demands them to perceive -> think -> react differently. So, instead of a traditional usage and attitude study focused on collecting data for all relevant consumption occasions. Primarily we collected three dimensions of information –

  • Attitudes and Perception
    • Identified the consumer traits and attitudes
    • Via a general attitude interview
  • Occurrences –
    • Where, when and how the consumption occasion took place
    • Via a mobile diary for four days
  • Deep Dive –
    • What motivated their choice at that occasion
    • Through two selected occasions from the diary


*All data and graphs have been refurbished with dummy data and do not represent the actual data or findings of the study.

  • This technique yielded rich data of consumers and occasions to generate insights around 5 key pillars of understanding. 
    • Map of moms across occasions – In this case the profile of a mom and child for all 1000 households in the first general interview was available (tagged with every single occasion)
    • Headspace Understanding –  We looked at all occasions together, i.e. each respondent had now turned into several rows of data (one row for each occasion). This allowed us to classify the share of stomach in any given day by brand, category, format of food etc.
    • Needs Map – To explore the emotional and functional needs at different occasions; we identified which different functional and emotional needs over-indexed at the cross section of different occasions. We also identified which brands, categories, and segments of moms over-indexed on these cells.
    • A repertoire or consumption map – to explore current consumption combinations, to understand if products are consumed with something else, showcasing several consumer rituals and innovation opportunities.
    • Mapping and Sizing of the market – Identify list of growth opportunities – specifically white spaces. These could then be prioritized based on size and ease of action.

Surprise: Interpreting the Results

Categorizing Different Food types (fighting biases) - Not all nutrition options in the market are considered nutritious and beneficial by mothers. But more importantly, products which do not claim to be nutritional supplements are often substituted by mothers as supplements because of ingredients, formats etc. We saw which items are considered as regular food during meal times (with reasons stated such as “regular food/meal”, “snacks”) versus occasions with products that happened because the mother wanted to specifically ensure nutrition (“it is nutritious”, “because doctor said so”, “it Is for his/her growth” etc.).

Instead of segmenting consumers and mapping the value proposition to a “consumer type”, the solution explores opportunities across different “occasion types”. A new way that develops a detailed Market Structure and Size of Opportunities (value and volume). After several iterations of the needs and repertoire analysis, we get a sense of how the occasions are structured, i.e. across day parts, brands, needs and type of food consumed. This process allows us to see the market in terms of all available occasions instead of looking at consumer segments.

One consumer could be present across different cells of occasions allowing us to target all needs of that one consumer versus forcing that one consumer into one need type (as in the traditional way of looking at target consumers). 

Impact and Advantages

This analysis and methodology allowed us to answer strategic business questions through one study and with greater confidence in the findings.

  • Identify usage/innovation opportunities based on over/under-development of certain categories and brands in meal occasions
  • Measure duration of consumption
  • Identify competitive set across adjacent categories
  • Identify usage/innovation opportunities based on gaps in key consumer drivers
  • Finding opportunities with right to play and headspace
  • Place existing innovation ideas on map and prioritize based on fit to a particular occasion and need
  • Identify the opportunity size for each consumption occasion
  • Understand if the opportunity fits with our core brand positioning and messaging/platform
  • Understand if this is replicable across other regions

Note of special mention: This study would not have been such a success without the guidance of Chris McClement (Global Marketing Director, Abbott Laboratories) and the superb execution of partners at Absolutdata Technologies Inc. including but not limited to Aaroshi Asija, Chetan Dua and Vishal Khullar.

Learn more and get answers to your questions as the authors present on this topic at CRC, October 8-10 in Orlando.