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Hard core analysis that finally led to a soft paneer!

Task at hand…
This case is around a product development study that we undertook for an Indian dairy products’ giant. The client was set to enter a new category of dairy product namely paneer (cottage cheese) which is an integral part of the Indian cuisine and elevates the status of a typical vegetarian spread.

The unorganized market for this product, which works purely on local equity, was huge but the branded dairy players were trying to catch up. The client intended to cash in on this new trend.

The client entrusted us with a project brief entailing a list of parameters basis which the consumers were believed to judge the goodness of paneer. The task was to provide inputs to the client for testing their newly developed product and making minor changes, if need be.


Our approach…
With the given objective set in our mind, we felt that a two step approach was required. The first one involving the qualitative section where FGDs were done to generate attributes sought in the product (e.g. softness, creaminess etc.).

Followed by a small quali - quanti organoleptic study where in-house placement of 4 different samples (blind) was done – ours and competition. The housewives were asked to make the same 2 dishes with each of the 4 samples and give responses as we felt this would allow the most in-depth interaction & evaluation of the product.


The outcome…
The hypothesis that the client had suggested was that the ‘Solid fat’ content in any paneer was the key determinant of its goodness/price (Higher content = ‘Better’ product delivery = Higher price). As we went along, this proved to be an incomplete understanding of the actual determinants of product quality. Here is how:

The most critical product attributes after keen analysis at the end of the first part of our research were:


Creamy milk = Soft (not rubber like, chichda), Smooth, Spongy (as in resilient)
Fresh = No smell, Sweet (taste), White
Pure = White, Sweet taste (mithas), Not watery (does not leave water), Spongy


Basis these attributes, the next step of the organoleptic study through product placement was undertaken in order to fine tune the attribute dimensions and get an evaluation of our product vs. local favorites as well as other branded options.

We discovered that while the consumers stated that full cream, high fat content product would obviously be the best (as iterated by the client as well), the lowest fat content product was rated the best in performance, after usage in blind form. Of the samples placed, clearly a ‘local’ variety with low fat content won the race and not the high solid content samples!

This put us in a fix and set us thinking on what was it that really worked for this product. There was something which the consumer considered to be of paramount importance but was unable to express it.

On deep analysis, we realized that there was a key attribute that was being missed out in our consideration set. After much brainstorming and rigorous analysis the above anomaly was attributed to the fact that correct moisture content (expressed in different ways) seemed to be an important cue for freshness & softness – an attribute that did not even find a mention when we set out, either by the client or by the consumer directly.

Once this moisture angle in the product was understood, what followed was a winning combination!! The research gave the client a totally new perspective in terms of their product development-something which even they had not mooted. Client developed a sample that combined solid content and moisture (an attribute that emerged through research), something which consumers always wanted but were not able to verbalize it that way.

The results were amazing!! We had a sample that worked well on the three key attributes of creaminess, freshness and purity and was a clear winner against the competition.


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