By: Paul Reppenhagen and Rich DePencier
It starts with a dream – perhaps hatched in a home kitchen, or concocted in a plastic Gatorade bucket. The ideas of countless aspirants – hoping to bring a food or beverage product to the masses – start with a “pinch of this,” a “touch of that,” and a truckload of sweat, muscle – and prayers.
Despite these dreams, struggles, and countless hours at tastings, state fairs, and in the boardrooms of grocers, only about 5 percent of aspiring food and beverage products ever find mass-market success.
For the other 95 percent, their tasty morsels and elixirs remain hidden away in middle America, destined to remain staples at bake sales or tailgate parties.
For small- and mid-sized companies looking for their own Holy Grail – that gleaming, eye-level patch of shelf space – the stakes are much higher, though the aspirations remain the same. Surely, there is a difference-maker that separates the dust bin from the home pantry?
As chief marketers with a combined half-century of experience in the food and beverage industry, we have seen our share of well-funded failures and bootstrapped successes. But we have also seen companies that have adopted a best-practices approach to traveling the road from test lab to consumer success – and have replicated this formula over and over.
In this blog series, we want to use our body of experiences to help small- and mid-sized companies find the secret to successfully growing their F&B brand in today’s retail landscape. We want to help them capitalize on retailers’ need for innovative and compelling brands to drive store excitement and traffic.
The process of commercializing, launching, and growing new F&B brands is not easy – but we think you can apply some ideas and tips that will improve your chances of success and strengthen your commercialization plan.
Inspiration can strike anywhere – but in the supermarket business, the tale generally goes this way:
While shopping at their local grocery store, someone realizes there is no food that meets all their families wants/needs. They get annoyed at the lack of choices, so they decide to work in their own kitchen developing something that meets all their necessary criteria.
They perfect the taste, make it organic, and remove all the unfriendly ingredients. They bring it to parties and hand it out to all their friends and family. Everyone tells them it is a winner and that they would buy it all the time if it were in the local grocery store.
So, they take the next step and develop a fun name, produce a cool logo, and develop an interesting website. They start packaging it up and selling it at farmer’s markets and local festivals and events. People keep asking if it is available in grocery stores, so they decide to run some numbers and talk to a few people and -- lo and behold -- they convince themselves they have a big, innovative idea that is different from anything else out there. They are ready to quit their day job and start the journey to becoming a food industry millionaire.
People do it all the time, right? You just need a good product, a catchy name, cool package design, and a lot of passion. How hard can it be?
Recently, in the span of one week, we talked with three such entrepreneurs, all in the same food category, which experienced this same progression. They all wanted to sell their business because they were struggling to find success in commercializing and scaling their idea. They found it exceedingly more difficult, time-consuming, expensive, and dynamic than they ever could have imagined.
The fact is, it is exceedingly difficult to commercialize, launch, and scale a food and beverage brand at retail. Failure is not just a function of bad ideas, products, or names – stores are loaded with all sorts of oddly named, unexceptionally tasting products that maintain and grow distribution for decades.
In fact, many retailers love to give local start-up brands a chance to prove themselves and appreciate these locally-sourced, innovative ideas.
So where is the point of failure? Simply put – the leadership of these startup brands do not understand the retailer’s perspective. They do not speak the retailer’s language. They do not know or have not considered all the supply chain, sales, and merchandising complexities of securing and keeping distribution in retail stores.
Believe it or not, satisfying consumers easier part to understand. Satisfying wholesalers, distributors, and retailers is the challenging part.
To that end, here are 10 tips and ideas to get on the same page with retailers and improve the chances for your food and beverage brand to find success:
Adhering to these tips may not guarantee your success — but they will increase your odds of gaining the distribution you need to grow your new business. If you are stuck, need help, or would like an expert’s viewpoint on your marketing plan, reach out to us at chiefoutsiders.com.
In our next blog, we will discuss scaling your brand – what to do, what not do, and the pitfalls for which to look out.