• Billions in lost profitability for UK companies
  • 60% of new launches are failing to provide growth or eating into companies’ profits from existing products

21 November 2013 – Companies have been damaging their business by launching ‘zombie’ and ‘cannibal’ products that eat into their profits, according to a landmark UK study by global research consultancy Kantar TNS[1].

‘Zombie’ products fail to provide long-term growth, acting as a ‘dead weight’ on the company, while ‘cannibal’ products simply transfer customers from other products in the portfolio, not only failing to provide top-line growth, but often leading to brand decline.

The UK study of almost 3,500 consumer goods launches[2] including savoury snacks, laundry, soft drinks and skin care showed that 60% of new product launches were either zombie or cannibal products[3].

Both of these product types, which are typically not detected until too late in the launch process, substantially increase the risk of a company wasting precious resources on non-productive ideas. The food and drinks industry in the UK alone is wasting an estimated £600m per year on R&D, in addition to the billions in pounds of costs in launching over 3,600 zombie and cannibal products[4].

Kantar TNS advises clients on specific growth strategies for their business. When working on innovation programmes, it found that companies launching new products often rely on volume alone to determine the worth of an idea, without determining the positive or negative impact the launch will have across their portfolio. For example, Pringles Xtreme – a new product which generated significant sales, heavily cannibalised the existing range, resulting in minimal franchise growth. Too often, these ‘cannibal’ launches fragment the resources and often lead to shrinkage of the total franchise.

Kantar TNS identified that only 15% of products launched are what Kantar TNS terms ’expansion innovations’: new products that attract sales which add to a company’s existing revenues. Kantar TNS believes the goal of all product innovation should be to generate profit through attracting new customers or increasing the share of wallet among current users, as opposed to eating into revenue from existing products. Kantar TNS calls this ‘true growth’.

Steve Landis, Global Head of Innovation and Product Development at Kantar TNS, said: “Too many businesses are spending huge amounts of money on quasi innovation that only convinces existing customers to swap within their range. The key to unlocking true growth is to focus on genuine innovations that will draw in brand new customers or lead to greater frequency of use by existing customers.

“The rewards for those that get it right are phenomenal. Launching a successful ‘expansion’ product, founded in genuine innovation, can rejuvenate a company’s fortunes and put it into a league of its own.”

A recent example of an expansion innovation is McCain’s Jackets – one of the most successful launches of 2012 - which delivered significant sales that were highly incremental to the existing brand franchise.

- ENDS –

Notes to editors

[1] Defining success in innovation, Kantar TNS, 2013.


Sector No. of products analysed Expansion products % of Expansion products
Laundry products 180 31 17%
Savoury snacks 133 23 17%
Soft drinks 2,883 173 6%
Skin care 292 56 19%

These findings are based on a Kantar TNS study, evaluating almost 3,500 new product launches, using Kantar Worldpanel data from December 2006 to November 2011.

[3] Total average zombie and cannibal products 60%, total average standard products 25%, total average expansion products 15%.

[4] The food and drinks industry invested over £1bn in R&D, resulting in over 6,000 new products in 2011 (Food and Drink Federation, 2013). If 60% are zombie and cannibal products, this results in a loss of £600m on 3,600 products.

About Kantar TNS

Kantar TNS advises clients on specific growth strategies around new market entry, innovation, brand switching and stakeholder management, based on long-established expertise and market-leading solutions. With a presence in over 80 countries, Kantar TNS has more conversations with the world’s consumers than anyone else and understands individual human behaviours and attitudes across every cultural, economic and political region of the world. Kantar TNS is part of Kantar, one of the world's largest insight, information and consultancy groups.

Please visit www.tnsglobal.com for more information.

About Kantar

Kantar is the data investment management division of WPP and one of the world's largest insight, information and consultancy groups. By connecting the diverse talents of its 13 specialist companies, the group aims to become the pre-eminent provider of compelling and inspirational insights for the global business community. Its 28,500 employees work across 100 countries and across the whole spectrum of research and consultancy disciplines, enabling the group to offer clients business insights at every point of the consumer cycle. The group’s services are employed by over half of the Fortune Top 500 companies.

For further information, please visit us at www.kantar.com

About Kantar Worldpanel

Kantar Worldpanel is the world leader in consumer knowledge and insights based on continuous consumer panels. We know what shoppers and consumers buy, use and why.

For further information, please visit us at www.kantarworldpanel.co.uk.