How to Scale a Food Startup by Jenna Abdou

When a dear friend of mine shared her desire to sell her nutritious meal replacement cookies my first thought was to drive to our local Whole Foods and do a product sampling. Before I could even get my car keys, we quickly learned of the many unexpected hurdles food entrepreneurs face when starting a business. In light of our personal experiences, we were inspired to create a resource for emerging food entrepreneurs to gain insight on how to launch a new product, get it to retail and market it. 

We turned to the founders of AccelFoods, AWAKE Chocolate, SpoonRocket and Clover Juices for the strategies leading to each of their companies success. 

Here’s what they shared:  

Product Launch: 
  • If you’re entering the industry with little experience use online markets to determine a need and experiment with marketing strategies. 
  • Create an alternative to unhealthy, processed products and explain the significance of making the switch.
  •  If you don’t envision multiple uses for your product it’s likely best to pursue a more versatile option.
  • When pitching your food product, create a simple but compelling explanation addressing the need and the functionality in the way you’re fulfilling it.

  • Target retailers based on where you’d most like to enjoy your product.
  • To determine if an adequate need exists, ask stores to test your product at the register for free. 
  • Make financial organization your top priority. Never spend in a way that prohibits getting your product to retailers.
  • Every individual and company promoting your brand is a direct reflection of your business’ identity. Choose partners you believe in.
  •  Although it’s important to balance shelf life with sustainability, your reputation resides in the quality of your product.
  • Rank packaging in your top priorities; People see your product before they taste it.
  • To avoid your product getting lost in stores, provide different sizes and price points for each department.

  • In store and event sampling is the best way to educate people about your product. In the words of Steve Blank, it’s time to “get out of the building.”
  • Utilize social media to showcase customers enjoying your product. Demonstrate what it’s like being an evangelist.
  • Provide a discovery element users have never experienced and they’ll be naturally inclined to share your product.
  • Use discount cards and promotions to remind customers to come to your store.
  •  Feature and promote new products and flavors for three to six months to sufficiently gage user response.
  •  Experiment with 100s of metrics until you find three features your customers can’t live without.
  • Especially when working in health, remember that not everyone subscribes to your dietary habits; Provide options for every customer to enjoy.

The Last Bite: 
  • Forget about competition. When your focus is on differentiation you won’t need to compete. 

For more on these insights check out this Slideshare with response videos from the founders, blogs and full episodes about their journeys building food startups. 

Further Reading
  • How MeUndies Made Merchandising Their Competitive Advantage — When MeUndies thinks about their underwear subscription service they compare themselves to Netflix. What the streaming pioneer did for TV, the Los Angeles startup wants to do to your underwear drawer. The goal is to provide monthly subscribers with the staples they love while delivering elements of surprise - Think briefs with donuts and dinosaurs - right to your doorstep.
  • Seedling Relies on Childhood Curiosity to Inspire a Creative Team — On a recent flight home, I spent over an hour browsing a children’s play website, completely enamored by sets like Design Your Own Superhero Cape and Invent Your Own Insects. After sharing Seedling with everyone I know, despite few of my friends having children, I wondered why the brand struck a such a meaningful chord with me.
  • eero Designs Wi-Fi for the Smart Home Era — Nikhil Basu Trivedi, Principal at Shasta Ventures, recently distinguished exceptional founders by their ability to prioritize. “It all comes back to prioritization, speed, paranoia, and knowing that if you don’t iterate, even after finding product market fit, you can be disrupted by the next product,” he says.

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