While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery who wants to compliment your competitor?!  

While investing in New Product Development can be costly for a company, being a follower rather than a leader may mean that you focus your efforts on operational efficiency, instead of developing products that excite your customer.

Certainly, developing new food products isn’t without its risks as development work can be costly and time-consuming with no guarantee of success once that product is launched onto the marketplace.

However, simply imitating me-too products can mean your company may never achieve its full potential.

Making a conscious decision to drive innovation within your business and do things differently can allow your company to target new types of consumers or new markets as well as increase your market share.

For example, this year Lays potato snacks, owned by PepsiCo, introduced limited edition flavours onto the European market by using the most popular menu-items from three established fast-food chains including  KFC Original recipe chicken flavour, Subway Teriyaki and Pizza Hut Margherita flavour potato chips, helping the brands further establish themselves within the European market.

Smaller brands have also invested in new product development as a means of targeting new markets.

For example, with the rising demand for plant-based products, US company Eat The Change has recently launched a mushroom jerky vegetable snack and US Based Company The Ugly company have taken lower grade fruit and developed an upcycled dried fruit snack product that now commands a price premium.

The use of mushroom as base ingredient to a well-known American snack such a jerky or commanding a premium price for wonky fruit might seem somewhat alien to some consumers however as the trend for plant based food continues to grow it is likely that we will witness more of these types of products on the marketplace.

Investing in consumer insight and understanding how to use this information to make actionable insights can really help a small business to succeed within the marketplace.

For example, Mintel (2021) reported that 66% of German consumer stated that they would like to try new brands of sweet spreads.

Such information confirms that German brand Veganz are headed in the right direction with their recently launch of the first honey alternative made from tapioca syrup and claims to have 40% fewer calories than traditional honey (Mintel, 2021).

However, often small businesses have limited access to market intelligence and customer insight information, possibly preventing them from capitalising on potential opportunities for new product development.

Through our new Higher-Level Apprenticeship programme, in MSc Food Design and Innovation, Ulster University Business School can help business to access and interpret the information they require as well as develop the skills needed to create innovative products. 

In collaboration with industry and supported by the Department of the Economy this new HLA programme is targeted at businesses to upskill new or existing employees moving into a new role within a company.

Such job roles may include customer insight, marketing and new product development.

Over the course of this 2-year programme, apprentices will discover first-hand how consumers shop and what this means for your future products and business.

Using our new Consumer Insight Lab, which houses a virtual convenience store stocked with local brands, apprentices will gain a deeper understanding of the shopper journey.




Apprentices will also have access to our award winning  Food and Consumer Sensory Testing Suite (FACTS) with 14 development kitchens and 20 sensory booths using the world leading Compusense sensory software to allow you to determine consumer preferences for a product or service.

Throughout the course apprentices will have the opportunity to gain access to key market reports and shopper data, for example, Mintel reports (including the Mintel Global New Products Database) helping you to use market intelligence to shape future innovations.

The course consists of seven modules, including: Food Choice, Culture and Environment, Food Policy and Sustainable Food Systems, Sensory and Consumer Evaluation, Data Driven Design Decisions, Food & Drink Design Project, Food and Drink Innovation and Food Design and Digital Communications.

Please contact the Course Director, Dr Lynsey Hollywood for more information (

For more information about the HLA MSc Food Design and Innovation please see the following link:


Period19 Aug 2021

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleFarm Week
    Degree of recognitionLocal
    Media name/outletIrish News Ltd
    Media typePrint
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    PersonsLynsey Elizabeth Hollywood