Tips for launching a new product in the food and drink industry

So, you’ve been cooking up a storm in the kitchen and your friends and family are raving about your culinary skills and now you’re ready to see if there’s a place for you and your scrumptious new product on the food market.

However, bringing a new product to market can be particularly tricky in the food and drink industry. With so many choices out there already, you need to make sure you get it right first time.

Where do you start with launching your new product?

Find your USP

  1. How does your product stand out from the competition?
  2. What does it offer that others don’t?

These are important questions to ask yourself when developing a product. Make sure you know who your competitors are so that you can stand out from them. Making sure you’re not a copycat product and that you provide something different, or tastier can help your new product become desirable.

Determine your target market

Think about the sort of person who will buy your product. What will they find most appealing about it? Is it the ingredients you’ve used, the ethos of your company, or maybe the price? Once you know who your customers might be, it will be easier to design things like your packaging etc. and maximise your success. Researching your competitors and trying to understand who buys their products, will certainly help you understand your marketplace.

Strong branding and packaging

The way you brand your product has a massive influence on how well it sells, so make sure you have a strong brand and packaging that reflects the quality of your product. Branding products, especially in the food industry, is seen as incredibly important. Creating an eye catching brand can help you stand out from your competitors and help you to engage with your customers. If you’re not an expert in design, you can always outsource this process to an experienced Design and Marketing Agency. For more information on this subject, read our blog ‘How are customers influenced by branding in the food industry?’

Price correctly

Make sure you research prices from competitive companies. If your product is priced too high, it could crash and burn before it’s even off the production line! Obviously, it’s also important that you make a profit, so try and calculate how much wastage you might have. Factor in other costs, such as scaling up production and how much it might cost you to lease equipment or rent a pitch at a local market.

Trial and feedback

Find local food festivals and regular markets specialising in food and drink to trial your product. Feedback from the public (especially a foodie crowd) is invaluable, so make sure you get plenty of it. Have questionnaires ready, so key aspects like taste, price and packaging can be rated. Free, public taste testing can also be a great way of increasing awareness of you and your product. Make sure you provide information about how you started and where your inspiration came from. Everybody loves a story and this will also help you engage with customers and get them tasting and talking about your products. Why not approach local farm shops and see if they would be happy to stock your products to see how well they perform? The National Trust are particularly strong advocates of local produce and stock a wide range in their gift shops, so put them on your prospects list. Remember to publish dates and times of trial destinations and new stockists on your website and social media accounts. You could also offer incentives, or introductory prices to get new customers interested.

Website and social media

It goes without saying that you need a strong social media presence on channels like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to promote your new food and drink product. Make sure you get your camera out at every opportunity and upload pictures and videos, to show the journey of your new baby. Snap away at every opportunity: when you’re at a market, products on the shelves of local shops, or when you’re in the kitchen developing new ideas. People love getting involved: give them the opportunity to vote on different flavours or packaging. This can help increase social media awareness and give you access to even more of that oh-so-valuable feedback. If you don’t already have a website, make sure you get one as soon as possible. Your website will act as the centrepiece for your marketing efforts. Try to drive traffic to your website from social media, so you can tell your story in full. Add a strong call to action, encouraging visitors to contact you or find out where they can buy your products, will be important on all information pages.

Show me the money

Once you have dotted the ‘i’s and crossed the ’t’s and you finally feel confident that your product is going to be a huge success, it’s time to look at financing and pushing up to the next level. There are a number of ways in which you could obtain the necessary funding.

1) ‘White labelling’ your food product
This allows you to focus on creating a great product and have another company take it to market with their branding on it. Contact larger food distributors directly, sending them product samples, a price list and a minimum order quantity. This can be a great way of reducing waste, because you’ll only ever make what’s ordered and you avoid throwing away excess stock. The downside is that customers may not know who you are, or associate the delicious products with you.

2) Local authority grants and loans
Speak to your local authority or Chamber of Commerce, to see what grants or loans are available to ambitious businesses. These grants can come in many forms, however, the following are prime examples:

  • A Direct Grant: Money is available to cover start-up costs, such as equipment or expanding overseas. You would normally be expected to put up around 50% of the grant value.
  • A Soft Loan: The Start Up Loan scheme, backed by the government, offers a low rate of interest and friendlier terms than a bank.

3) Take it to the Dragons’ Den
Even if you don’t make a deal, the exposure can be fantastic, Frome-Based Watmuff & Beckett is the perfect example for this. Almost a fifth of the investments made on Dragons’ Den have been to support businesses from the food and drink sector. The most famous being Levi Roots with his Reggae Reggae sauce. But, even Rimi Thapar who appeared on Dragons’ Den and turned down a £50,000 investment in her LoveRaw business said that; “It was a great opportunity to show people what we do and the philosophy behind our products.”

4) Go for crowd funding
This can be a great way of keeping full control of your business, while achieving the funding your company needs. You could offer a very small stake in your business, split between the ‘crowd’, or give loyalty cards offering discounts and promotions as a reward for support.

Help & advice

Creating a great food and drink product is just the start of your journey and the thought of tackling all the tasks yourself may be too daunting. Now’s the time to seek help and advice, to take your product to the next level. In the south west, the Food & Drink Business Network offers fantastic support to fledgling food and drink companies. Resource sharing with fellow members, business development opportunities, the use of the commercial development kitchen and informative specialist conferences are an example of what’s available. A specialist food and drink marketing agency, such as Cognique, can also help with all aspects of marketing: including branding, packaging design, website design, social media, PR, photography and SEO. Outsourcing that will then give you the time to concentrate on the most important bit: creating fabulous food & drink products that sell.

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James PattenTechnical Director

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