Wait, we’re a test market?

There is no shortage of local favourites in London, Ontario, which has been known to be one of the best cities to test new products.

Ben Cecil, the Chief Business Officer of the Canadian Centre for Product Validation, said that it’s a London tradition to bring new products for people to test out. He said the city’s demographic makes it a perfect place to test new products.

“It is a mid-sized city, not too large, not too small, just quite manageable from a marketing perspective to cover a city,” Cecil explained, “We also have a very diverse economy, one that our strong manufacturing base services. We’ve got a broad demographic, [from] students in post-secondary institutions, all the way up to the attraction by seniors because of its amenities.”

Why you should test your new products in London, Ontario. The first McDonald's in Canada, at Oxford and Wonderland, at night. Photo via Adrien Wayne on Flickr, found with a Creative Commons License.
Photo via Adrien Wayne on Flickr, found with a Creative Commons License.

Cecil pointed to the first McDonald’s in Eastern Canada opening in 1968 by George A. Cohon as significant in London’s test market history. He adds London tested fibre optic infrastructure with search shoulder operations in 2015.

Brewing new products

BlackFly beverages is one of London’s local businesses that tested their product in their own city and then expanded due to its success. Co-founders Cathy Siskind-Kelly and husband Rob Kelly have roots in the Forest City. Siskind-Kelly is a proud third-generation Londoner and her children are fourth generation students at London Central Secondary School.

“We have deep roots in London and have always loved the city. And we were definitely interested in opening up a business that we could run and build and grow from our base in London,” Siskind-Kelly explained.

Why you should test your new products in London, Ontario. Rob Kelly and Cathy Siskind-Kelly of Black Fly Beverages each holding one of their drinks with bottles of their drinks in front of them. Photo courtesy of Cathy Siskind-Kelly.
Photo courtesy of Cathy Siskind-Kelly.

The pair created a cooler that’s “more natural and not too sweet” because more people wanted to try craft drinks. Making them even tastier, Black Fly Beverages’ craft coolers have cane sugar instead of corn syrup.

The company also blows the glass for their bottles, mix the liquid, and package the products in London. “As an employer, our business has been able to establish and build right here in our own community, which is so cool and really exciting.”

How a burger changed Globally Local’s direction

James McInnes, Globally Local owner, said the vegan company switched from meal kits to vegan fast food because of their “famous burger.” The “famous burger” looks like a version of McDonald’s Big Mac. Their “famous burger” sold out during its debut at Ribfest in 2016.

McVegan Big Mac
Photo via Facebook / Globally Local

The company launched their own McVegans food truck and a restaurant in Downtown London. 1,000 VegFest London guests also tried the burger. A smaller version sold out at the London Wine and Food Show.

“Everyone wants to try it, whether they’re vegan or not,” McInnes said.

He added Globally Local plans to franchise across Ontario and the rest of the world. “It’s great to start in London because London is such a test market. We’re able to see what works and what doesn’t work. If we can make it work in London, we can basically see it in other markets too.”

Why you should test your new products in London, Ontario. Many people standing outside of Globally Local's food tent at Victoria Park during Ribfest 2017 in London, Ontario. Photo via Globally Local's Facebook page and taken by Len Goldberg.
Photo via Facebook / Globally Local and taken by Len Goldberg.

Like Cecil, McInnes says London’s diverse demographic makes the city a good test market.

“Our customers are from all walks of life, all different demographics that come in here. It’s great to see that we are hitting that large audience with fast food, because fast food is for everybody,” he explains, “You don’t have to be wealthy to have a burger, right? That’s what we’re kind of trying to do here. We’re trying to make it accessible to everybody.”

He adds that Londoners appreciate a product with a good value. McInnes said Globally Local’s fast food, from their burgers to their fries, are handmade.

“It’s got to be a good price point. It’s got to be the right product,” McInnes said, “It’s interesting that people think ‘Oh they’re selling vegan products. We’re only appealing to a niche market, but that’s actually not the case, we’re appealing to everybody.”

This just scratches the surface

London has a long history of products and businesses being tested here in the Forest City. Think of places like American Eagle or Target (although it was tested other places too, we were one of the top choices). Businesses come to London, see how things work out, and either flourish or go back to the drawing board.

Knowing all this, you could say everyone here in the city’s a bit of a business aficionado… without even knowing it!

Feature photo via Facebook / Globally Local

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