Truearth Healthy Foods Market Research for a New Product

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DECEMBER 24, 2009


TruEarth Healthy Foods: Market Research for a New Product Introduction Isabel Eckstein strode toward her office, inhaling the aroma from the test kitchen where the product development team was trying new recipes for TruEarth, maker of gourmet pastas, sauces, and meals. Her team had been working hard for the past year on a fresh whole grain pizza. The final market research results had arrived, and it was time to make a decision on launching the product. In 2006, Eckstein, a brand manager, had led the introduction of Cucina Fresca, a fresh whole grain pasta meal kit sold through supermarkets. By the end of 2007, sales had reached $23 million, making it the most successful product launch in company history. However, growth had slowed in 2008 as competitors began offering similar products. Sustaining a competitive edge in the fresh Italian food category required continual innovation and, as a result, TruEarth had invested heavily in its pizza offering. Eckstein observed: We were aggressive in launching Cucina Fresca. We made a significant investment in new manufacturing equipment and the distribution infrastructure required to get fresh food to shelves quickly. Being a small company competing against Nestle and Kraft is not easy, but we do not make rash decisions. The success of Cucina Fresca was a calculated risk based on significant research. We think we can achieve similar success with pizza, but we will need to take a hard look at the numbers.

Company Background
TruEarth was founded in 1993 in St. Louis, Missouri, by Gareth DeRosa, a young entrepreneur. DeRosa saw an opportunity to market healthier gourmet pastas and sauces made from superior ingredients: In the 1980s, demand for healthy, gourmet products grew sharply. We saw a segment of the market shift away from mass-produced, highly processed foods toward greater quality and authenticity. It was a special opportunity for us because we knew we could deliver what more and more customers wanted. ____________________________________________________________

HBS Professor V. Kasturi Rangan and Sunru Yong prepared this case solely as a basis for class discussion and not as an endorsement, a source of primary data, or an illustration of effective or ineffective management. This case, though based on real events, is fictionalized, and any resemblance to actual persons or entities is coincidental. There are occasional references to actual companies in the narration. Copyright © 2009 Harvard Business School Publishing. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business Publishing. Harvard Business Publishing is an affiliate of Harvard Business School.

4065 | TruEarth Healthy Foods: Market Research for a New Product Introduction

DeRosa sourced a particularly high-quality durum wheat from North Dakota and was notoriously selective about ingredients for sauces. The product line featured standard pastas, such as spaghetti, rigatoni, and shells, and specialty pastas with blended ingredients, such as artichoke, spinach, or saffron. In addition, TruEarth was one of the first companies to focus on whole grain products, offering both 60% and 100% whole grain pastas in its line. The tomato-based sauces were made from the highest-quality ingredients—real tomatoes instead of paste or puree, extra virgin olive oil instead of canola or soybean, and no sweeteners or dried spices. The concept was successful, and TruEarth became a supplier to a number of gourmet groceries throughout the midwestern United...
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