Sure It’s Innovative, but would You Eat It?

The other day, my friends and I were discussing the innovative merits of a new product called “Candwich” — a sandwich that comes in a can. We all agreed it was innovative, though for different reasons. One person liked the innovative packaging, which allows Candwiches to be conveniently dispensed from vending machines, just like a soda can, for busy people on the go. Another called out the innovative preservation techniques that allow the sandwiches (even the BBQ chicken variety) to stay fresh inside the can for up to a year, without refrigeration. Finally I had to ask: But would you eat it?

“Um, if I was starving, I guess.”

“Yeah, like stranded on a deserted island and one came floating by.”

“I’d eat it if someone dared me.”

My thoughts exactly. And don’t even go there with the proposed “Pizza Pocket Candwich” that has the sauce and cheese baked into the bread. Ewww.

I realize that my reaction isn’t a rational one. Entrepreneur Mark Kirkland, the inventor of Candwich, assures consumers that the sandwiches are safe to eat and taste good. And the convenience factor, especially for people who travel or live without refrigeration, can’t be denied.

Yet, Candwich has an uphill battle in convincing consumers like me to get past the initial “yuck” factor and not only try the product, but become a regular customer. No matter how innovative, or tasty, or how many varieties there are, the marketing machine will have to be working overtime. Focus groups and VOC (voice of the customer) will be key to gathering convincing testimonials and suggestions for improvement.

Which brings me back to the innovative merits of the Candwich. Does the product take advantage of innovative technology? Yes. Does it solve a problem for customers? Yes (convenience and portability). Does it solve this problem better than anything else? Well, presuming that vending machine sandwiches wrapped in plastic don’t last a year, Candwiches prevail on the longevity front.

But, unless I’m stocking a bomb shelter, I’m not really in the market for a year-old sandwich, regardless how fresh it may taste. Plus, peanut butter and jelly and BBQ chicken on a white hot dog bun doesn’t meet my requirements for a healthy sandwich, something that more and more people are looking for these days.

Finally, does the Candwich product add value for the organization? After all, that is the final criteria for a true innovation. In the case of Candwich, once the novelty wears off will the sandwiches find a loyal market (perhaps a niche following amongst backpackers, or a distribution in developing countries) that sustains the business? For the sake of a fellow inventor and entrepreneur, I certainly hope so.

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