When we brought this to our consumer taste-testers, some missed the difference when quickly scanning, since they were looking only for the food beauty shot and fisherman on the front. Preparation was by conventional oven cooking, so the product fits easily into the expected preparation norms for this meal.
The baked color was a lighter golden brown than the traditional breaded fish fillet, yet very pleasant and not unexpected for a breaded fish fillet. The flavor was of potato chips and mild whitefish. Teens and families, once they were aware of the flavor difference, thought it was cool. Until they knew, they were uncertain what was different about the fish and not sure why they would want to consider this version of fish fillets.
For those who understand they are getting a different fish fillet, the familiarity of potato chips actually bridged any potential gap. The product had the expected potato chip taste — potato, salt and, very important, crunch. The crunchy batter was not too salty, really crunchy and not too oily or greasy — just enough to keep the potato chip idea going.
Some of our taste-testers found changing the breading created a very different quality for a breaded frozen fish fillet. The interest in potato-crusted fish was positive from a mom (gatekeeper) perspective, as it forced another vegetable (typically green) to be served instead of potatoes. Mothers of younger children thought using potato chips would help them introduce fish in a fun way. The serving size was the same as for a breaded fish fillet.
The meal has 240 calories per serving (two whole fillets) with 14g of fat, 8g of protein and 760mg of sodium (32 percent of daily value). The nutritional levels are similar to breaded fish fillets, with this product having slightly more fat and sodium but also more fiber per serving.
Does the product deliver?
Yes. The Gorton's brand has been about trust. Getting families to eat more fish is not always easy. USDA suggests consumers should eat two servings of fish per week, and this may help.
Gorton's is bringing kid-flavored variety to the meal and giving mom more convenient fish options. And if there's time for only one side dish, the logical choice is a green vegetable rather than a starchy one. Once the family knows why the fish tastes a little different (since it is so similar in appearance to breaded fish) the response is positive. For families who are not kid-focused, the unique coating brings a pleasant alternative to a very familiar comfort food.
How to make the idea bigger: This product is surprising given that when traditional meals are considered, one cannot stray very far from the familiar. By considering the entire plate and reconfiguring the plate's components, Gorton's offers something new and creates an opportunity to support mom in getting more fish and alternative vegetables (on the fish and next to it) into the meal rotation.
The potato coating gives Gorton's the opportunity to consider more familiar potato chip flavors that could fit with a mild fish flavor. What about Cool Ranch? Barbecue? How about broadening the idea to nacho chips or tortilla chips, maybe even pretzels? This bridges the familiarity of a snack with the health benefits of fish.
Other idea expansion opportunities are to consider other traditional familiar meals with fish and create breading that reconfigures these meals. Potatoes are known for fiber. Bumping up the fiber level of the potato breading is another option that will enhance satiety of the overall meal and increase even more the healthy perspective.
Rating: This product does deliver on the promises. It delivers something unique in a trustworthy manner. It captures the essence of the traditional fish and chip meal and reconfigures it to something a little different, yet still very recognizable to consumers who don't like change.
Market potential: Good. This is the beginning of something.
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.