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The Spice Project

Reinventing the spice category and testing the value of new ideas

U.S. Spice imports have doubled since 2009. The average American spice cabinet now holds around 40 spices compared to 10 in the 1950s. Given this growth, why has the typical grocery store's spice aisle experienced little change? gravitytank sought ways to reinvent the spice category. Our work led us to create a branded line of spices called Kick Finishing Spices, which gave us a platform to hone our expertise in micro-piloting and in-market experimentation.


In Phase 1 of the project, our mission was to get smart about the spice category and uncover new opportunities. The team explored how people think about and use spices through in-home research, shop-alongs, and expert interviews. Our observations showed us that even though individuals are highly engaged in their food, they feel that they have less time to actually prepare meals. Many people turn to easy solutions such as prepared foods or a set of basic recipes, but these become boring over time. Spices are seen as a part of "real cooking": an enjoyable, but less frequent and time-intensive activity. However, this does not mean that people are not flavoring their food. Across interviews, we found busy individuals "doctoring up" their meals by adding extra ingredients like salt, pepper, grated Parmesan, ketchup, red pepper flakes, and Sriracha sauce to dishes right before eating.

By the end of the phase, we created three product and packaging platforms, each with a set of concepts containing edible samples. The team also created retail channel and merchandising strategies to predict how our ideas might be received by the market. We selected our lead platform, Kick Finishing Spices to move forward with further testing and consumer validation.




Food & Beverage

Featured Outcomes

3 product and packaging platforms
Edible prototyping
Retail channel and merchandising strategies
Micropiloting and
Google Adwords and
Facebook advertisements



Moving forward from Phase 1, the team possessed strong research insights and a product line idea that received positive feedback. At that point, we faced the same questions that our clients grapple with during the innovation process: What is the best way to execute on an idea and bring it to market? How do we know it will sell? gravitytank set out to quickly and cheaply answer these questions by experimenting with tools used by early stage companies. We created six variations of Kick, each based on a potential consumer or use-case identified in our earlier research. Three variations were focused on specific foods people commonly wanted to doctor up — pizza, popcorn and sweets. The remaining three were designated for general use but targeted to three specific consumer segments — busy families with many tastes, foodies with taste but limited cooking skills, and the health-conscious individuals searching for more flavor in their meals.

We utilized the lean canvas to quickly assess our assumptions and risks for each variation of Kick. One risk quickly rose to the top of our list: communicating our value proposition to consumers. While the behavior of “kicking up” food right before eating is well established, Kick itself represented a new product category, somewhere between a condiment and a spice. To gather data about which variation of Kick would resonate the most with consumers, we turned to another tool from the startup world: landing page testing.

For each platform, we created a live web page with sets of flavors, branded packaging, and a text field where visitors could enter their zip code to find a store near them that offered Kick. Although Kick was not sold anywhere at the time, the zip code entries helped us gauge consumer interest and identify neighborhoods where Kick could be potentially be piloted as a real product. The team drove traffic to these sites via Google Adwords and Facebook ads, and tracked click-through rates and zip code conversions to measure consumer interest. In the end, we found that our Pizza and Sweet variations resonated best with consumers!

Screenshots from a website that the Spice team launched to gauge consumer interest in Kick products. Interested visitors were able to leave their names and contact information to learn when the products would launch in their neighborhoods.

Advertisements on Google and Facebook that the Spice team used while testing Kick’s consumer appeal and experiment with go-to-market strategies.


Our journey with Project Spice is not over, as we continue to refine the flavors, packaging and messaging for Kick. The team is seeking a licensing agreement with a manufacturing partner to bring Kick to market, and is gearing up for a crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter to rally consumer support.

“The Spice Project represents gravitytank’s efforts to learn and use startup methodology firsthand. Experimenting with new validation techniques and piloting, this has enabled us to go beyond the typical definition and innovation work we usually do for clients, allowing us to continue shaping the solution as it’s been out in the market.”
— Joey Nakayama, Design Lead, gravitytank

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