We sat down with our co-founder Che Green (e-sat down, since our team is spread far and wide) to learn first-hand about his experiences as a 25-year consumer researcher.
In this Q&A session, Che offers his response to a common objection to consumer research, shares how brands can do research even on small budgets, and offers an amazing example of the predictive power of consumer research. Let’s dive in.
You have over two decades of experience in consumer and market research. What are you most passionate about in this field?
CG: My background is primarily in social science research, so I’m especially passionate about the role that consumer insights can play in helping solve some of the world’s most pressing issues. To make substantial progress on climate change, public health, and animal welfare requires understanding how people think and act – and how to persuade them to make positive choices and buy products that have a smaller impact.
Can you describe the most valuable aspects of the consumer research that Moonshot Collaborative offers, and how this type of research can benefit companies?
CG: We are able to fully customize our research solutions to meet the needs of our clients and partners, so the insights are tailored to help them make key decisions. From one-off questions to in-depth quantitative and qualitative studies, we can help companies at all stages. Perhaps even more important, however, is our deep knowledge of alternative proteins and sustainability. David’s (my co-founder’s) decades of CPG experience and my 25-plus years of conducting research on these topics put us in a position to add a lot of value to our clients.
What’s an example of a time when consumer research helped a brand that you were working with solve a problem they were experiencing in their business?
CG: The historic inflation we’ve been experiencing lately has put pressure on plant-based companies to raise prices. One of our clients wanted to understand the likely impact that a price increase would have on sales, which we were able to estimate using a price-sensitivity study. They were then able to make an informed decision about what to do with their price. In another case, our client had more than a dozen attributes that they used to describe their product and needed to understand which were most important to use in marketing to consumers.
Some argue that survey results are not completely reliable or representative of how consumers would actually behave in real life. How do you respond to this?
CG: Well, technically that’s true! No survey will ever be completely representative – there is always at least a small margin of error. However, experienced researchers know how to reduce that error, eliminate bias as much as possible, implement quality assurance measures, and generally help clients navigate through the research process. That includes helping them interpret the results and understand any caveats or limitations that apply.
Do you have any tips to share with brands in this space who may not have the budget for consumer research?
CG: Of course! Not everyone is ready to invest in consumer research, but that doesn’t necessarily mean operating in the dark. First, companies should look at existing research provided (usually for free) by organizations like The Good Food Institute and ProVeg. The topic is also increasingly popular in academia, so you may find research through Google Scholar and other academic databases. For those that choose to do research on their own, here are a few tips:
- Focus on a small number of key research questions regarding what you need to know, not what would be nice to know.
- Don’t rely on feedback from your supporters, friends, and family. Get outside of your bubble (you may need to incentivize people).
- For most research, emphasize quality (i.e., getting to the right kinds of respondents and asking the right kinds of questions) over quantity.
- Think beyond surveys and consider doing interviews or small focus groups with people outside of your inner circle. This can be especially useful when exploring new brand or product concepts.
Do you have any other research stories or anecdotes to share?
CG: In one of my early studies as a researcher, we uncovered a trend we called “incrementalism” – which closely translates to what people think of as “flexitarianism” today. We even suggested that companies and nonprofits directly appeal to flexitarian eating through campaigns like “Meat-Free Mondays,” which was prior to “Meatless Mondays” being popularized by Johns Hopkins University. With 25 years of hindsight, I’ve seen how consumer insights have predicted some of the biggest trends in our field – including the recent leveling off of plant-based sales.