Kraft's user-generated content shapes a new product line

Finally, a smart use for user-generated content: listening what customers like, then iterating or innovating from it.

While Kraft s recipes Web site serves the primary purpose of increasing the usage of Kraft brands, it also has proven useful to the company as a barometer for consumer taste preferences. The four varieties in the Cheesy Skillets line chicken and broccoli, ultimate cheeseburger mac, nacho supreme and zesty barbecue chicken were modeled after online recipes that had drawn numerous clicks, comments and high ratings, according to Mr. Grablick.

Read the full NY Times article here: Velveeta Promotes Cheesy Skillets - A Familiar Brand Promotes a New Line of Cheesy and Easy

How common it is for brands to use online ratings and reviews to influence new product ideas? On the surface, it seems like a savvy idea: the ultimate focus group discovery to find out what customers like. A great starting place for product development. Finally, it feels like these sites with copius reviews and rankings might have some greater business end than collecting user data and building email lists. (I won't deny that having ratings, reviews and comments on products and recipes is helpful to website visitors and searchers.)

But, it also feels a little too clever: these online recipes were already quick and easy. Now they are even quicker and easier because the customer can buy a boxed product for $2.50 and "just add meat." From a processed food health standpoint, is it better or worse to make it from scratch with processed ingredients, or just dump processed ingredients out of a box?

Another slightly disturbing element in all this is that Kraft essentially created a product (boxed dinner) that cannabilizes one of their "ingredient" products (processed cheese). Are they looking at two different sets of consumers? One who wants their meals fast, and another who wants them even faster? Perhaps.

And perhaps it is best to just not think very hard about anything that seems too fast and too easy...