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Case Study

International Product Launch Defies Challenges

It’s challenging for a consumer products company to launch a product line into a new global market. It’s even more difficult to enter several new countries at the same time. Now do it on someone else’s timeline and conditions.

This is the case when a consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturer partners with a retailer to produce its store brand. The retailer controls the product formulation, branding, and packaging. It also dictates where and when the products need to be on the shelves. Consumers have become more receptive (and loyal) to store brands, so it’s a lucrative business. But it has also become more competitive.

A Disruptive Request

IPM worked with a food manufacturer that supplied store brand products to a national chain. At that time, the chain wanted to take the line of products into several international markets by year’s end. That meant they only had five months to launch. The chain turns over products quickly and was anxious to see results. In the meantime, a competitor was waiting in the wings, eager for the chance to win business from the retailer. If IPM’s client didn’t succeed, it risked losing the business. Failure could even result in hurting the relationship with the customer and impacting its domestic business as well.

Though the company was committed, the project was disruptive. With little recent experience with these markets, the company didn’t know what had changed. They had no process for supplying international stores or entering new markets (or even learning how to do so). It was typical for the marketing team to manage new product launches. But they didn’t have the knowledge, skill set, or bandwidth to define and execute the seemingly complex process. They were spinning their wheels and the company’s leadership team was getting more and more nervous.

Learning the Right Steps

IPM’s first order of business was to get the team aligned on the work to be done. This started with creating a process flow for launching a product in each of 10 new markets. Each market has its own requirements for shelf life, nutrition facts, and food safety documentation. Also required are ingredient disclosures such as country of origin, dairy and egg pasteurization, and heavy metals testing. Shipping requirements vary across each market, as well. For instance, pallet sizes differ for exports to different countries, which then meant custom pallet pack patterns were required.

A challenging yet critical aspect of creating the process flow required learning how the regulations applied in each country. IPM leveraged its deep experience and expertise in new product development in diverse, highly regulated industries to guide discovery efforts.

The project team mapped the process in detail. They pointed out interdependencies among R&D, marketing, supply chain, vendor management, regulatory, sales, operations, customer relations, packaging, and quality assurance. Armed with this information, the team was able to build a project plan, which was executed in an efficient manner.

Helping to Fulfill Future Requests

Beyond detailing a thorough process flow, a new international product playbook was created. It includes a checklist for each country, task time estimates and critical deadlines, and communication plans. The playbook also outlines functional roles and responsibilities, and a method to identify and mitigate risks.

In the end, the food manufacturer succeeded in supplying the products on time to the customer’s international facilities. The products had the required labeling, packaging, palletizing, and customs documentation for each market. And the playbook is a tool to guide future international product launches for store brands and the manufacturer’s branded products.

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