7 tantalising tips for wannabe food product start-ups
Food product start-ups have a notoriously hard time getting off the ground. For every successful food entrepreneur, there are several that go to the wall. According to a report in the Independent, nine out of ten food start-ups fail. The challenges of funding and cash flow, food hygiene, production processes, food packaging, branding, marketing and brand exposure mean there’s no single recipe for success.
Nevertheless, with passion and determination you could be the one in ten stat to make a success of your foodie idea. Here are 7 great tips to help you on your way.
- Refine your product and find your USP first
Getting your product absolutely right is the first step. Bringing a food product to market is a long and difficult process. Before you approach anyone, be sure you are 100 per cent happy with your product. Most important of all, know what it is that makes your product unique. It will more than likely be your USP (unique selling point) that gets your product onto shelves (as well as yumminess).
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Do plenty of research on what customers want. There is definitely a move towards using more natural ingredients in the food industry, so do bear that in mind.
Be transparent (without giving away your recipe secrets, obviously). Take lots of photos and chart your refinement journey on social media. Brand exposure takes time to build and is just as important as your product.
- Get the packaging right
It’s not just design that matters when it comes to product packaging. Using appropriate materials and the correct type of packaging also matters. Do your research and test different packaging styles. Global wholesale food packaging supplier, The Bag Broker, offers valuable advice on how to choose the best packaging for food products.
Never make the packaging more important than the product. It is what is inside that will get you repeat customers, not the packet.
- Listen to feedback and know your market
Understanding your market is crucial. Just because you think your product is fabulous, it doesn’t mean everyone will. You would be foolish to ignore consistent feedback about your product. If your target market says it’s a tad too heavy on the Macha, you need to listen.
Use surveys (Surveymonkey is a great tool), use social media to get feedback and create a focus group, listen to mentors, friends and family. Virgin Start-up offers great advice on how to get feedback on your business.
But, always stay true to your philosophy. Don’t be tempted into any agreements that don’t quite fit your food products, or make changes that just don’t feel right.
- Accept some people will hate your product
There’s this little thing called taste. Some people love Marmite, some people hate it. A bad review of your food product doesn’t mean it’s all bad. So long as you get glowing reviews too, you can put some of your less satisfied customer reviews down to taste.
The important thing here is to have a food product that has a market. Definitely don’t try to satisfy and win over the tastes of all people. That would only compromise the uniqueness of your product.
- Keep customers’ needs in mind
Your product shouldn’t be about you. It should reflect your market research and hook into what your potential customers need. What makes your product unique? You need to understand what it is your potential customers are craving.
- Make friends in your local foodie community
Sharing experiences with fellow foodie start-ups is a great way to pool resources and learn from others mistakes. Fellow foodies will be as passionate about their products as you are about yours. You have something in common already.
Go along to new restaurant openings and food events. Be interested in other people’s ventures and sing loudly about your own. You will be surprised at where new contacts in the food industry may take you.
- Keep your foodie business on the right side of the law
You’ll need to get yourself familiar with the Food Standards Agency and the Advertising Standards Authority. You will need to comply with general food law requirements, food management safety and give food and hygiene training to staff, as well as ensure you are legally compliant with the ingredients and allergen info you print on your packaging. How you advertise your food product will also be governed by advertising rules.
There are numerous challenges when setting up a food business. In a survey carried out by food founders’ festival organisers, Bread & Jam, 150 emerging food and drink businesses reported that funding, cashflow and securing distribution were aspects many had struggled with.
By the way, the Bread & Jam festival is definitely one any new food start-up should go to. Held at the Institute of Directors on Pall Mall, London, this year’s dates (2018) are 4th and 5th October. Tickets can be purchased from the Bread & Jam website. Expect a brilliant programme of panel discussions, inspirational food industry speakers, hands-on workshops and mentoring sessions focused on accelerating independent food and drink brands.