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What Makes Kansas City The Perfect Test Market For New Products

Courtesy Photo
Chipotle's new chorizo meat option debuted in Kansas City area restaurants at the beginning of June.

Do you have good taste?

Some companies think you do, just because you live in Kansas City.

Kansas City has seen several new products before the rest of the country. Think Wendy’s breakfast menu in 2011 or the McDonald’s Blitz Box 2013, which offered a bundled meal for our Chiefs parties. If you've been here long enough, you might even remember a McPizza.

Now Chipotle is testing out its new chorizo meat option in the Kansas City metro — it started appearing in area locations about a month ago.

But what makes Kansas Citians the perfect guinea pigs for new products?

The process of selecting a test market can be very methodical. Susan Cross, a consumer research professional set up an example of a company who is developing cat food and wants to test the product in a particular city.

“One can tell from a variety of secondary resources in terms of retail sales what markets have a high propensity to buy cat food versus dog food and you can get an indication by cities across the nation, which ones are what one might call 'cat-friendly' ... so that becomes a great target place to go talk to cat people,” she told Up To Date guest host Brian Ellison.

In Chipotle’s case, the process was much more straight forward, according to Chris Arnold, director of communications for Chipotle. He told Ellison that Kansas City is Chipotle’s second most established market after Denver, its city of origin.

But there was another factor that made this area attractive.

“In the case of Kansas City, we also liked the fact that chorizo — what we’re testing there — was something that people in Kansas City weren’t necessarily as familiar with or interested in as people in other parts of the country,” says Arnold. “The thinking there was if this works in a place where people don't have the same sort of familiarity or interest in something new, then it should work spectacularly well in places where interest is greater.”

For many companies, getting the Midwestern take on a product ensures that it will sell all over the country.

The coasts tend to be a little more advanced in terms of technology — where they invest their money, says Cross. They are what the marketing industry refers to as “early adopters.”

"But if you really want to make sure that everybody is going to buy your product, you really need to understand it from the bulk of your consumers, which are sitting in the Midwest,” Cross said.

She thinks that Kansas City is beginning to replace Chicago as the go-to test market in the region.

“Kansas City has grown a lot as a city in terms of investment and what it's trying to do and it’s brought a lot of different kinds of people to the area," says Cross. "So I think it’s become kind of the new Midwest. It also has a financial perspective in terms of what its costs to do research. So it's a new place, a new avenue to gather the Midwest opinion."

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