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Business Tips

How to make your Food Startup Fly

Running a food startup? Here are a few tips to help you with your business strategy.

If you’re in the food business you’re in a sector which is essential to living. It’s also in rude health with The Guardian Newspaper  saying the organic business is leading the charge with demand at its highest for a decade and almost at any price.

We all need food but the question is will we want YOUR food or beverage products. Experience being the best teacher I spoke with two Entrepreneurs to identify what makes one food business fly while another becomes a failure statistic.

 Rob Ward is director and co-founder of the Grocery Accelerator:

 Rob built one of the largest fruit businesses in the UK, supplying national supermarkets such as M&S, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose, and has guided dozens of businesses to growth in the food sector through the Grocery Accelerator. 

He’s clear about what makes a food or beverage business Fly. “You have to know the eating occasion your product is made for, the ideal customer you’re targeting with the product, and be certain that ideal customer is ready to buy the product 3 times!”

Your brand must be specific about when it’s going to be consumed. Is it an after sport pick me up, a general snack during the day, something you sit down to, something you share with friends? Rob says you need to be very clear about how the product is use-positioned.  

Moreover, you need to have a clear persona or consumer profile of the people you’re targeting. The more precise the better says Ward, “so 20-35 won’t do. You need to visualise what the customer might be called, their name, what they do for a living, what kind of place they live in, in fact, everything to make him or her a real person.”

Finally, the three-time sale routine is not just a gimmick. It’s very meaningful to your retailers. They need products which enjoy repeat sales, they want a cash cow with a regular clientele which is far better than constantly doing promotions to sample sales of brands no one wants to re-purchase. “Don’t think about scaling up your product until you know that your instagram or other targets have shown they repeat purchase the item 3 times, then you know you have a flyer,” Rob advises.

Mason Fantasia, cofounder of the Food Foundry

Mason nurtures food startups by providing the support and expertise to make them successful. Food businesses that go through the Foundry may well progress to the grocery Accelerator for help in coming to market. 

The Food Foundry uses the MVP or Minimum Viable Product concept, to test the viability of your food product. It involves 3 steps in which you test the product, measure your testing, and learn what refinements are required to make the product effective. Participants on their courses may go through a few iterations of Testing, Measurement and Learning to create a product suitable for the market, but at least they then know what they’re selling is more likely to reach the 3-sale benchmark advocated by the Grocery Accelerator.

“Say you’re creating a peanut butter product,” says Mason, “you need to test customer impressions of the recipe, whether to use a standard roast or dark roast for colour taste and texture and what about sweetness, for example?” All the attributes of the product should be tested through surveys at food shows, markets and any opportunities you have for customer engagement.  Measurement and analysis of these results are what provide the learning for product development and further testing.

“The key at this stage is the minimum input of time and money while you’re getting the product right,” says Mason, “you work with consumers as if they are developing the product with you.” Nothing is worse than to think you have a product you like but which is totally untested in the market place. 

The Food Foundry also uses peer review as a development tool for the cohorts of 10 businesses they run in their courses at a time. Totally different food products learn from each other in a collegiate atmosphere which also accelerates the learning process towards building a sustainable viable business.

Your business requires you to work smart to make it successful as Rob and Mason both advise, but there is one other ingredient to success in a food or any other business: that is your attitude. Commitment is key. One needs the never give up attitude to getting your product right and your marketing right so people really want as opposed to just trying your product out once. 

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Written by: Tetteh Kofi, Brand Ambassador for JournoLink

Tetteh is a broadcast journalist with credits on the BBC, ITN, LBC and Colourful Radio in news and current affairs. He published newspapers and has run training and crisis management programmes for multinationals and government agencies across Europe.

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