An NPD consultant today [Thursday] called for a major change in the way the food industry approaches new product development for the multiple retailers.

Jonathan Smith of food industry specialist Axis Management Consulting described the industry's current approach to new product development as 'madness'. Speaking at a food industry seminar, Smith said: "We have food suppliers' margins being squeezed like never before and an unrelenting search for supply chain cost improvements taking place. And yet at the same time, we have countless millions of pounds being wasted on failed new product launches.

"So much of this waste is avoidable. People talk about eight out of ten new product launches failing as if this is something inevitable, like a law of nature. It is nothing of the sort.

"Too few projects are rigorously evaluated and screened before they get under way. Numerous new products are launched having never seen a consumer before the day they hit the shelves. At times, NPD is done willy nilly, almost for its own sake. And many businesses do not go about learning lessons in a systematic way.

"It's no wonder that failure rates are so high. This has to change. The food industry can no longer afford to squander resources in this way. It's a great opportunity for businesses that get to grips with running NPD in a controlled, focused way."