Boost Glucose Control

Novartis has taken the Mead Johnson nutritionals line and developed a condition-specific, snack replacement product.

By Hollis Ashman and Jacqueline Beckley, Consumer Understanding Editors

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Opening the bottle is not difficult with the screw top lid, but the tamper-evident seal over the mouth of the bottle requires a tool and could remind the consumer she is using a quasi-drug.

This is not a beverage that you should chug out of the bottle. The mouth opening is slightly too wide, the product a little too creamy. You are forced to slow down and savor the product as you would an indulgent product (or was it made to be poured in a glass?).

Flavor and texture are critical to the perception of quality. The flavor impressed us. It is strongly vanilla, the texture is creamy with no chalkiness. Unlike some beverages where aroma can delight, there is a slight aroma but not one that enhances the flavor experience.

The product is an indulgent, rich beverage. Given that the consumer typically is trading off a snack for this beverage, this richness is key to the perception of satisfaction and satiety.

The ingredient statement and nutrition values are good: 190 calories, 16g of carbohydrates, Benefiber (another Novartis brand) supplementation and 250mg of sodium.

Does the product deliver?

The Boost brand is about the energy to embrace life. Energy that comes from great-tasting nutrition. As Boost moves toward more condition-specific versions, the message of energy becomes less clear although the message of nutrition is clearer (and more condition-specific). These contrasts can create some confusion for consumers.

This product may not deliver on energy -- certainly not in the current Red Bull way. The perception of nutrition is dependent on belief in the claims on the bottle for diabetics trying to manage their disease.

How to make the idea bigger: The original Boost brand was about getting energy through nutrition. This new direction is about dealing with health conditions through nutrition. This new direction still fits its user base.

The product is indulgent and can be traded off against snacks. It has excellent nutritionals, but can be a little scary when looking at the ingredient label. Milk, tapioca, vegetable oil and a whole bunch of ingredients you can not pronounce do suggest this is a product made in the lab. Not all consumers who are dealing with health conditions are looking for that.

Novartis has developed a proprietary nutritional blend to deliver smaller peaks in blood glucose, fewer carbs and more protein, plus a special fat blend that includes omega-3, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to help reduce cardiovascular risk factors. These are all factors that consumers may not think about in terms of managing their diseases, but will help them further down the road.

While all this is very helpful, consumers may be looking for something that is more real rather than lab-created. A stronger positive aroma experience would help. Moving beyond the traditional flavors would also help. Those flavors are strongly associated with medical products, so having a trendy flavor could give this an added "boost."

Rating: Boost Glucose Control Vanilla delivers on the nutrition and taste promises. It delivers an indulgent experience that can be traded off versus a snack. The concern is the shout of health and focus on medical supervision. But for the many Americans looking for snack alternatives to help them with their diabetes, the taste profile is a great step forward.

Market Potential: Good, for the brand, good for the category. As a means to expand the overall brand, this is a good start in delivering more specific nutritional formulations against target consumers. Moving the product into mainstream distribution and store locations takes some of the stigma out of managing a disease like diabetes.


Hollis Ashman is chief strategist and Jacqueline Beckley is president of the Understanding & Insight Group, a strategy, business and product development firm that connects with consumers using qualitative and quantitative approaches. For more information, see www.theuandigroup.com.
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