These days, data is an essential aspect of almost any business, but particularly for innovative businesses that offer something brand new. Data can demonstrate that your product or service genuinely does something new, and help convince a sceptical audience that your idea could change the world.
How It’s Fresh! Uses Big Data in practice
UK-based food technology company It’s Fresh! is one such business with an innovative – maybe even world-changing – product. Its pioneering packaging product claims to reduce food waste by 45 percent – and that’s a big deal for a world where one third of food produced goes to waste.
The product is a unique filter that extends the freshness and quality of fresh produce by absorbing ethylene, the natural gas that makes fruit and veg ripen and decay more quickly.
The company needed to prove the effectiveness of its product, so the team turned to data to build a solid case. This meant conducting multiple trials across the entire fruit and veg supply chain, from growers, to distributers, to retailers, and finally into our homes. As founder and director Simon Lee explained, “For me it’s absolutely clear, having solid case study data to validate the efficacy of our technology is vital.”
Armed with this data, It’s Fresh! is able to go out and spread the word about its unique product, and back up its claims with hard data. Sales director Peter Durose tells me, “I can go and talk to retailers and growers, and if I can put data in front of them, to demonstrate what we’re doing, they are much more likely to listen, as extending shelf life and quality as well as reducing waste and increasing both sales and margin is extremely compelling, especially when sustainability and value for money is becoming increasingly important for the consumers.”
So far, the special It’s Fresh! green and white striped filter has been adopted by big UK retailers like Morrisons, M&S and Waitrose, as well as Walmart and Albertsons in the U.S., and Carrefour in France – not to mention their growers around the world.
For retailers, the filter extends the shelf life and quality of fresh produce by two days. This means less waste, which, in turn, means they get to sell more produce at full price, instead of at discounted, “reduced to clear” prices. It also helps improve availability of fruit and veg, which drives retail sales.
The technical details
The product development process entailed extensive research, with the company trialling and measuring as many variables as possible. That was the best way to ensure that success was demonstrable and repeatable.
Lee talks me through this extensive research process. “We like to run our commercial trials with huge quantities of product over a sustained period of time in order to ensure that we get statistically significant data – so we will compare millions of packs or cartons that have our filters with millions that don’t and then evaluate the data captured on sales, waste, availability, customer complaints, as well as quality assessments like pressure, colour, rot, texture, taste – the latter part consisting of blind taste tests and placebo packs, similar to running clinical trials.”
“The meta-analysis over all trials and pilots completed in the last few years tells us that on average we can reduce waste at retail by 45 percent, deliver improved margins and increase sales by double digit figures, as well as providing extended quality and flavour to the consumer. Where else can the industry get those sorts of dramatic improvements these days?”
Ideas and insights you can steal
This case study clearly shows how vital data is at every level of business. Bringing your product to market and getting it into the hands of consumers is one of the biggest challenges facing start-up businesses. Those who can help you achieve that end – investors, retailers and so on – increasingly expect ideas to be thoroughly backed up by data. In this digital age, it’s no longer enough to be basing business decisions on “gut instinct” alone.
Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the field of business and technology. He is the author of 18 best-selling books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has 2 million social media followers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.