Food and beverage companies are increasingly crowdsourcing new flavors. Or so they say. Ben & Jerry is considered to be one of the pioneers with its campaign “Do the World a Flavor” in 2010, allowing users on its site to create their own varieties of ice cream. Lay’s hit the headlines when a couple of years later offered a prize of $1 million asking its Facebook fans to help generate its next flavor of chips.
Budweiser, owned by Anheuser-Busch, is also one of the food or beverage companies most reputedly putting new product development in the hands of its fanbase. That was the case of the development of Black Crown, a golden amber lager, for which combined a competition between company-brewmasters with consumer suggestions and tastings.
Black Crown was aimed at capitalizing on the growing craft beer movement and somehow trying to change the perception of Budweiser brand as a kind of antithesis to local, artisanal brands. This project involved more than 25,000 consumer-collaborators but, was it really a “crowdsourcing” initiative?
Using feedback from thousands of consumers at several events on 12 new possible flavors developed in its regional breweries, Budweiser selected three varieties that were sold in a limited edition pack dubbed “Project 12.” This feedback included over 10,000 attendees at the Budweiser Made in America music festival held in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend. At other tasting events, Budweiser asked consumers to describe each beer’s taste, flavor, freshness, and style before picking their favorites. Attendees to the tasting events were also able to enter feedback at iPad stations.
After completing taste testing, releasing the sampler, and gathering consumer feedback, Budweiser declared one of them the winner of the Project 12 competition: “Black Crown,” created by brewmaster Bryan Sullivan of Los Angeles, an amber lager with six percent alcohol by volume.
We are not for deciding what kind of collaboration with customers is good or bad. But, as described in here, what once was announced as a “crowdsourced” beer seems to us more of another example of a brand using its crowd of customers as one giant focus group. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s better to call each thing by its right name.