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How to improve the success rate of the launch of my varieties ?

September 20, 2023
Clément B.
Agronomy engineer

Each variety in the catalog is an opportunity to gain market share and / or increase prices i.e. overall an opportunity to strengthen our position.

Let us share a few tips and thoughts on how to secure the launch of your varieties :

  • How to maximize the return-on-investment into research - up to 25% for seed companies ?
  • Why some varieties reach the top of success, and some others don't ?
  • What can support a seed company’s profitability, notably in Product Development activities?

The first step is to analyse the target : What are the market needs? In seed product development the variety profile is a pre-requisite, it has to include the agronomic features vs. key competitors in order to secure competitiveness of the variety, the seed prodcution threshold in order to secure profitability and the consumer expectations.

Then the characteristics of the variety are to be studied and analysed: varieties are qualified with a lot of data coming from heterogeneous origin (internal vs. external trialling, lots of different locations) and despite this heterogeneity, the data needs to be compared vs. key competitors in order to identify the most adequate for some market segments.

Beyond data, the advice and feedback from farmers and / or consumers is a useful input. Once we start to detect a variety that could be successful, communication is crucial for product developers as we'll explain more about it below.

1.)    Build a variety profile, focused on the market characteristics and requirements

The definition of a varietal profile (or ideotype) adapted to market needs is a pre-requisite to secure the launch of a variety. This variety profile will determine the values to be reached for all the traits of interest targeted by the breeder and the developer.

The design of a varietal profile depends on several factors:

  • The market segment. It represents the junction between a market and an agronomic region and its constraints (specific pathogens in the area, for example), and must group together end customers/consumers with relatively homogeneous behaviors. For example, a market segment might be called "Potato/Bavaria" or "Sunflower/linoleic/Ukraine/Broomrape-Resistant race G". Each market segment is dynamic in terms of size and / or value (growth,decrease...). A strategic positioning by the Product manager will be needed prior to the launch (regaining market share in a growing segment by offering more varieties, for example).
  • Market targets. These must be clearly identified, along with their respective expectations. For example, the requirements of growers (e.g. yield, disease resistance, habit, etc.) will not be the same as those of industry (e.g. starch, oil, sugar, etc.) or end consumers (e.g. organoleptic qualities, color, shape, weight, etc.). The product manager will have to take into account all these requirements (upstream and downstream) and prioritize them when necessary.
  • The competitive environment. For example, if demand is strong for early-maturing varieties (primary trait of interest), but the market is already flooded with adapted products, then the product manager will have to define secondary traits of interest that will differentiate his variety from those already on the market. A differentiated positioning is essential to set our variety apart from the competition and ensure a successful launch.

Generally speaking, we consider the current reference varieties (competitors or internal) in the target market segment to define the varietal profile. For example, let's consider competing reference varieties A, B and C in the target market segment. Our varietal profile could combine the characteristics of these 3 varieties: 130% of the yield of variety A; maturity date at least 6 days shorter than variety B and superior powdery mildew resistance to variety C.

However, it must be borne in mind that taking all these factors into account in the construction of the variety profile will inevitably be followed by a process of ranking and prioritizing the traits of interest, as the"perfect" variety does not exist (existence of negative interactions between traits of interest and infinitesimal probability of obtaining a variety that meets 100% of the desired criteria).

secure variety launch market segments variety profile
Example of the creation of variety profiles for 3 different segments

2.)    Standardize and maximize data from our network of partners

A reliable network of local external partners(distributors, agri-testers...) is also essential to secure the launch of our varieties, enabling us to test the selected varieties under "real"conditions. Over and above the objective performance of the varieties tested,these variety trials will also enable us to gather the "subjective"impressions of our partners, an essential element before the marketing stage.

We need to build up a solid network of partners.  Representativity, contrast and homogeneity are the 3 main criteri that help us choose contractors wisely:

  • Representativity. Above all, the network must be representative of the target market segment and correspond to the target. If there are heterogeneities in terroir, farming practices or farm types, then the network must be built taking these heterogeneities into account. For example, it is unreasonable to collaborate with large conventional farms if 70% of the target is made up of small-scale sustainable farmers.
  • Reliability. Partners must be encouraged to respect the protocols imposed and collect data on their trial plots. This can be achieved, for example, by standardizing and simplifying the scoring process and sharing the results of their participation on a collaborative platform. Trust with the partner is a key factor in obtaining usable and valuable data. Each data point, if correctly collected and valorized, becomes valuable information for the launch of the variety.
  • Notoriety. Partners play a significant prescription role. If a variety performs particularly well on the trial plot of an agri-tester recognized by the community, there's a good chance that the news will spread quickly and encourage the launch of this variety.

The distribution network also plays an important role in securing variety launches. Choosing well-established,referenced distributors can boost the launch of a variety, with the potential trade-off of lower product margins compared to a direct sales strategy. It is therefore important to anticipate the most complete product evaluation by optimizing the management of the development network's trials. On this topic, check out 3 steps for cost-effective PD trials.

how to secure variety launch partner network
Visualization of the partner network and the characteristics of each location on Bloomeo

3.)    Collaborate with your network to secure the launch of a variety

This is a point that is all too often overlooked. The successful launch of a variety depends on frequent, fluid communication between the various departments.

Some key stages require close collaboration between teams:

  • Between Breeding and Marketing. The variety profiles are prepared by the Product Managers however they will have to be discussed with the breeding department to make sure it has a good understanding of the market's needs and breeding targets. Certain features of interest in the variety profile may not be correctly understood (different vocabulary),leading to costly breeding errors. On the other hand, the breeding team deals with an initial genetic pool, specific to the structure, and the developers have to take this into consideration.
  • Between PD and Marketing. At the end of the development phase, the Varietal Identity Card presents all the technical characteristics of the marketable variety. The Marketing team's objective at this stage is to translate and simplify these characteristics into understandable customer benefits, i.e. sales arguments.For example, very early-ripening peas will probably translate into a higher margin for the grower, who will be able to sell them as "early vegetables" (if sold on the fresh market). Bear in mind that the clearer the message, the more successful the variety will be.
  • Between R&D, PD, Marketing, Production and Finance. You’d be amazed to see  how many varieties turn out to be excellent,validated by breeding and development, with a high market potential, and yet unprofitable for the company! If, for example, seed multiplication of this variety is laborious and generates costs which considerably reduce the gross margin, then the Marketing will either have to revise his prices or withdraw his variety at the risk of seeing his return-on-investment fall. This is why decisions to advance a variety must always be supported by financial analysis (what are the production lead times, what are our estimated costs per unit, what are our expected margins per unit).
secure variety launch cycle research marketing product development
Collaboration network to secure the launch of our varieties

In a nutshell

Securing the launch of our varieties depends mainly on these 3 criteria:

  1. A thorough knowledge of the market, enabling the definition of a varietal profile in line with the targeted segment, and differentiating it from the competition.
  2. A solid network of partners, representative of the market segment
  3. Collaboration between R&D, marketing, production and finance throughout the variety's life cycle, ensuring the best strategic decisions for the company.

That's why it's a good idea for any agronomic company to use software like Bloomeo for its product development department:

- Clear definition of variety profiles for each market segment, with prioritization of traits of interest

-Collaborative platform and standardized protocols to collect reliable, valuable data from development and partner network. The challenges to be met by this platform are particularly detailed in Select successful varieties with Bloomeo.

-Interconnection with research and marketing departments for the entire cycle and process of data validation and internal decisions


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