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White Paper

The Idea Funnel

A graphic showcasing the steps of the food idea funnel and how 300 broad ideas turn into 5 viable menu items at launch.

Innovation Solved

The most innovative food companies are continually coming out with new menu items (think Starbucks Sous Vide Bites or Taco Bell Nacho Fries, etc.). What do these companies have in common? It’s not luck – it’s discipline and process.

Innovation is hard. To get it right, the best companies whittle their way down from hundreds of ideas to bring just a handful of new items successfully to market – because they know that while innovation demands creativity, success depends on the strength of the process behind it.

The Process


Gather your ideas – these can come from anywhere (high, low, near, far) and anyone (internal or external to your organization), which makes having a disciplined screening process all the more vital.

Idea Screening

Test everything in the list – even ones that might feel like just a kernel of an idea. The goal here is to accomplish 2 key things: 1) Rank the most promising ideas, 2) Hone the good ideas by identifying thematically what consumers tend to like and dislike.

Refinement & Positioning

Take the items with the most potential and learn how to talk about them and what it will take to bring them to life for consumers.

Concept Testing

Now that you know you have some solid ideas that can work, start ironing out the kinks and separate the true winners from the rest. In this stage, get specific and dive deeper (what pricing makes sense, which varieties to start with, which audiences to target, what language resonates, etc.).

Taste & Ad Testing

This is where ideas become reality – time to put actual food into consumers’ mouths… let them tell you if you delivered against the ideas you’ve described so well. Test some ads to make sure that what you meant to say is really getting across.

Screen & Test with Datassential to Eliminate the Guesswork

Done right (and barring unforeseen circumstances – like, say, a pandemic), the process should set you up so ideas that make it to the very end are well positioned to boost your win rate substantially. Datassential’s gold-standard Launches & Ratings, is an interactive and dynamic database of consumer ratings for every new menu item and LTO from major chain restaurants and c-stores (40,000 strong and counting), plus 140,000+ grocery deli and meal kit introductions.

At both the Idea Screening and Concept Testing steps of the process, Launches & Ratings offers a critical advantage by allowing you to see how your ideas measure up against actual in-market items (rather than comparing your ideas to other ideas – good or bad). And now, Launches & Ratings provides comprehensive analysis by chain and longitudinal tracking, along with customizable notifications for segments, chains, or foods, beverages, and flavors of interest..

Consumer ratings highlights:

  • Star Ratings: A five-star rating system makes it crystal-clear to assess how your idea performs in each key area – you’ll know how to fine tune with just a glance.
  • Composite Score: Incorporates 6 measures (unbranded purchase intent, uniqueness, frequency, draw and value) to give each menu idea a “grade” that makes it easier than every to gauge success. A single score lets you instantly compare ideas – side-by-side, over time, and across key demographic subgroups.
  • Viability Rating: Classifies the item to describe what role it might play on the menu – is it a Superstar (that wins in every way) or does it mainly have Specialty Appeal (to a narrow but passionate base)? This rating takes into account both overall performance and key individual metrics.

These new measures were designed to be evaluated in tandem, each lending insight to the others; together, they allow you to go deeper and truly understand the story of each new menu item’s potential. Whether you’re filling your menu pipeline or helping a customer with theirs, Launches & Ratings gives you the easiest, fastest, and most precise data with instantly translatable results. Test your ideas at the highest standard with the least amount of guesswork.

Don’t miss out on the next big thing

Our clients were early to market with Gochujang, Salted Caramel, Turmeric, and Kale.


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