Business Kuopio


Kuopio Living Lab branches out to consumer research


Changes in consumption and buying patterns have made it a challenge to get a product on the market and keep it there. Pre-testing a product with its end users cuts down on investment risk and makes launches more cost efficient.

kuvituskuva tyotenäytteiden makuarviointi

Taste tests of product samples can be used to evaluate the commercial potential of a product and gather important data to support development and sales. Photo: Raija Törrönen, UEF

The Kuopio Living Lab service, known for its expertise in wellbeing, will now also offer consumer-oriented foods research, food sector consultancy services, and rapid product and service concept testing in association with Savonia.

– Wellbeing research and development expertise clusters have joined forces to create a true Living Lab of all aspects of wellbeing here in North Savo, say Johanna Kantala, expert in research, development and innovation with Savonia University of Applied Sciences, and Jenni Lappi, specialist and project manager of the FoodValley ecosystem.

Consumer research for many purposes

The applied food research unit, working in Savonia’s premises since many years ago, conducts consumer studies to allow food entrepreneurs a fresh look at their product through the eyes and opinions of consumers. The unit’s consumer research can also be conducted in the actual operational environment appropriate for the customer group being profiled, such as a grocery store or an eating establishment.

– Developing products and services that meet the needs of consumers and clients is a complex process that requires the support of experts in many different fields. The use of research services like this is increasing in every field of business, and the added value of learning about the consumer point of view during development is being recognized in the food supply chain across the world, says Kantala.

In practice, a company might use the Living Lab to test their new food innovation with a selected demographic, using methods such as observed group discussions or sensory evaluation, and receive thoroughly analysed data on the reactions and opinions of their target demographic.

– Possible demographics to be studied include e.g. working people on a regular diet, people on a gluten-free diet, or aged people, who can be recruited as testers through their assisted living home.
Consumer research can be employed in fields besides the food industry. An example is an usage study of a health technology device, where it’s important for development to hear the opinions of a variety of professional groups.

Pre-testing increases cost-efficiency

From an entrepreneur point of view, Savonia’s consumer research service is a welcome addition to the Living Lab service palette. Pre-testing a product with its end users will increase cost-efficiency and diminish investment risk for a business.

– Particularly in the food business, developing a new product is a long commitment. A consumer study to support product development can be carried out in as little as a month’s time.
Consumer research contributes valuable data on the usability and acceptability of the product. This helps direct the development process to remedy any faults and to assess if the product is ready for the market.

– This is why it pays to make use of consumer research services in product development, even from a total cost-efficiency point of view.

Changes in consumption and buying patterns have made it a challenge to get a product on the market and keep it there. The huge variety of products available in stores means consumer behaviour is more and more individual. Consumers are also more open to experimentation and less likely to keep making the one and the same choice than they used to be.

– The point of product development is to meet the needs of the target demographic and generate new customers. Without testing the impact of the products and services being developed on the target demographic, it’s hard to make any headway in a competitive market.

– It’s common for a business to converge on a certain set vision and values during product development. Therefore, getting an end user’s appraisal of the product is very valuable. In addition, using an external service also provides tools to look at the company’s internal processes and ways to develop the business, says Kantala.

Text: Maiju Korhonen

The Kuopio Living Lab project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the North Savo Regional Council, the City of Kuopio and the Kuopio University Hospital.