The box (for the Party Pack) is printed with stamps and call-outs of "People's Choice 2007" and "voted by many, craved by all." The Kettle brand is presented on a map of the world with "a natural obsession" above it.
Flavor, texture and aroma contribute to the perception of freshness and quality. The chips are a dark golden color with flecks of seasonings on top. They do look greasy. The chips are ridged and include a number of fold-overs (chips that flop over on themselves), which provide extra crunch. The aroma is fruity, which caused some consumers to question what these were.
The flavor is sweet and tangy (lime-like), peppery, salty and spicy (a moderate level of heat slowly presents itself on the margins of your tongue and is offset by the fat from the potato chip), all at the same time and fairly intense. The flavor coated the tongue. By the time you have eaten a few, there is an aftertaste in your mouth that you either want to continue by eating more or you want to clear with a beverage.
The texture is that of a kettle chip, thick and crunchy. The chip leaves some oil and particulates on the fingers that you either lick or wipe off.
Our taste-testers felt the chips were crunchy and the flavor was addictive. While some people don't like sweet chips, they felt this sweetness coupled with the spice added complexity, almost like a barbeque taste. They felt better about eating them or sharing them with others because they were natural and had healthy oils.
Most felt this chip paired well with beer or wine and was very adult-like. But the consumers also suspected kids, especially teens, would like them. They could be the chip "clueless" adults could use to show their teenage kids they weren't so out of it. A few felt the chip was almost meal-like and could be eaten in small quantities as a meal replacement.
Does the product deliver?
The Kettle brand is about premium, wholesome, natural, almost handcrafted, energy-conscious. The chips' flavor, texture and appearance fit the idea of premium and caused consumers to recheck the natural wholesomeness. At 9g of fat per serving, these do not fit everyone's definition of healthy, as they are a full-fat chip.
All of the flavors (not just the winner) were popular. The pack did create the ability to have a high-end chip party. We are told to look for the competition again next year.
How to make the idea bigger: The idea of taking product sorts, taste testing and consumer research to another level is a big idea. Kettle gets people like us to buy their test chips and then to vote on them. That is a big idea. We love it.
Mixing natural and premium together is not easy. Many times when consumers consider natural, they think the flavors should be milder. These products are not that. Helping people figure out how to use these flavor-intense chips as part of a meal might be a good direction. Could these blend well with soup? What other dish?
Some consumers may seek a dip, but which one and why? The flavors are very complex, the texture is somewhat complex. How can we use these chips beyond eating them?
Rating: The product delivers on all the promises.
Market potential: Good for the line. This process gets consumers involved in creating new products. It engages them in the brand. It's a great way to connect with consumers and their emotions.
Hollis Ashman is chief strategist and Jacqueline Beckley is president of the Understanding and 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.