"I ended up tasting my starter during my dessert!"
Mita Shaha, who works in our Consumer Healthcare business, will never forget hearing these words when she met one denture wearer for the first time. Getting a taste of French onion soup while enjoying your chocolate pudding is an experience she works to avoid, by listening to consumers and helping to redesign our denture products so they are more in tune with what people need.
"We keep the consumer at the heart of everything we do," says Mita – who works as a global insights lead in our denture care and dry mouth team, based at our Consumer Healthcare innovation centre in Weybridge in the UK.
By asking our consumers what matters to them, we can keep innovating and evolving our products. Importantly, this is not just about using our science to improve the products themselves – but also how the product is delivered. Whether it's denture care products or a pain relief gel, getting the package right is essential to the consumer experience.
From gnashers to nozzles
Listening to consumers – and becoming aware of the starter-dessert conundrum – identified one particular challenge for the Consumer Healthcare team: to transform the delivery of our popular denture adhesive product, so it would be easier for consumers to use and protect against irritating bits of food.
Our research found that 82% of denture wearers think it's important for their denture adhesive to keep food from getting under dentures, which highlights the impact wearing dentures can have on daily life.
A brew for the flu
Electric kettles are rarely found in US homes, due in part to the lower household voltage. But they do tend to have coffee-pod machines. In fact, 30% of American households have a Keurig machine – a system for brewing hot and cold drinks, most famous for its coffee-pods. So we created Theraflu PowerPods, which provide our soothing flu medicine at the touch of a button.
Watch our short film to go behind the science of how we created this consumer-driven innovation.
Mita still remembers a consumer who had worn dentures for a decade, but never told their partner. So it's vital to always stay focused on the consumer and what would help make their lives better.
Having gleaned this initial insight the team spent four years working to capture qualitative and quantitative insights from denture-wearing consumers to test new ways to deliver denture adhesives – the sticky substance which helps the denture to stay in place.
We use our Consumer Sensory Labs and Health Hub panel (an online community of consumers across the world who are involved in concept testing and focus groups) to gather feedback on our ideas for redesigning consumer products.
Based on these insights, our scientists redesigned the nozzle for Polident Max Seal, to deliver a narrower stream of adhesive which is easy to use and control.
"By identifying this unmet consumer need, the redesigned nozzle developed by our scientists will improve the everyday consumer experience," says Mita.
Dentures are not the only product where we're listening to consumers to help stimulate innovation around our products and the package they come in.
Our Consumer Healthcare team discovered that people found it messy to apply Voltaren, a topical anti-inflammatory treatment. Having to wash your hands after each application meant that some consumers would opt for a tablet form of pain relief over a gel. So we looked at ways to adapt the packaging, to make it less messy to use.
Packaging Development Manager, Sylvain Fradin, is part of the team behind the new Voltaren 'no mess' applicator, which enables consumers to apply the gel without touching it.
We used different criteria to help develop and refine the applicator design along the way… but it was the consumer insights that helped us really refine the final product.
By holding focus groups and conducting home visits, Sylvain and the team began to fully understand the consumer behaviours associated with using Voltaren – not just the application, but how it was stored and transported. For instance, the team discovered that Voltaren could leak when carried in a handbag. So this led to the added feature of a cover cap that prevents the gel from leaking when carried in a bag.
Although the cap's different, the tube and product formula remain the same. So, when the new packaging starts to hit shelves around the world over the next year, consumers will benefit from the same effective pain relief they've always had from Voltaren – but just with a little less mess.
"I'm really curious and love asking questions", Mita says. It's this curiosity that enables us to understand consumers better. Mita suggests that one exciting trend about the future of consumer healthcare is the increased insights we can receive across a range of new digital platforms, from online Google surveys to social listening tools.
"Through new technologies that are faster, more efficient and can reach anyone in this connected world", says Mita, we can use our curiosity to discover exactly what consumers need.
Find out more about Consumer Healthcare
Consumer Healthcare Joint Venture
On 19 December 2018 we announced our agreement with Pfizer to combine our consumer health businesses into a new world-leading Joint Venture.
Making sense of what consumers want
As a Principal Sensory Scientist in our Consumer Sensory Lab, Hyung describes how we develop products that spark the sensory reaction consumers want.