How to Launch a Food or Drink Brand
It’s fair to say that food and drink is something people are truly passionate about. As a leading food and drink marketing agency, here at Jellybean we share that passion. In fact with over thirty years in food and drink marketing and food and drink PR, and with a client list that reads like a who’s who of foodie brands, we live and breathe it. Passion is what makes so many small producers take the daunting step and turn that nugget of an idea or foodie innovation into a fully formed food or drink brand. When it comes to creating a new food or drink product it’s one thing to have a great idea and quite another to bring it successfully to market, so you can give up the day job.
As with any major undertaking the old adage holds true – failing to plan is planning to fail, especially when it comes to food marketing and strategy. Be it foodservice marketing, retail marketing or consumer marketing, planning is essential. For every food or drink brand success story such as Innocent, Charlie Bigham’s or Wahacca, there are thousands that never reach the supermarket shelf, professional kitchen or become a dining destination. So how can you make sure your food or drink brand succeeds? Well, as with most things there is a certain element of luck, but as they say, the harder you work the luckier you get.
As leading food and drink marketing consultants with countless successful launches under our belt, here’s our top 10 tips for launching a food and drink brand…
- The right product
If your food or drink product isn’t up to scratch, then even the strongest marketing plan, packaging and financial backing will only get you an initial purchase and that isn’t a sustainable business. So, don’t be tempted to rush your launch. You only get one chance to make a first impression so make sure your product is 100% right. Don’t rely on friends and family to give you unedited feedback. They love you and they won’t be completely honest when you’ve put your heart and soul into it. Go out to the market and test your product with your target audiences (all of them) to make sure you are aware of any possible pitfalls with your product before you get too far down the road. Don’t assume it’s right because it works for you, you may not be the target audience and you are more than likely far too close to it.
- Have a clear food and drink brand story
If your brand doesn’t stand for something it stands for nothing. The most successful foodie brands engage with consumers on an emotional level. Of course, the product is key, but consumers want more, you don’t have to go all out and donate your profits to charity, it’s more about knowing what your brand stand for. It might be your food and drink brand is driven by your personality, or your ethical stance, it might be a lifestyle statement or a personal need you feel others will share. Whatever it is, be clear. Working with a food marketing agency to hone your story is one way to go. Simple brand modelling tools can be used to workshop a clear vision for your food or drink brand and when it comes to ongoing branding, having a brand book with clear dos and don’ts will ensure you stay consistent as far as tone and styling. It’s especially important as you scale up and involve more people.
- Know your audience
Be clear about who you need to reach, who is likely to purchase your food and drink brand (customers and shoppers) and who is going to be eating or drinking it (consumers). It may be the two aren’t the same, so consider all your target audiences at each stage of your route to market. Foodservice marketing (to hotels, restaurants, pubs etc.) must factor in the importance of the wholesaler and distributor in order to gain a vital route to market, as well as the chef or buyer. Whereas retail marketing and grocery marketing can live or die on engaging a handful of hugely powerful buyers to get your product on-shelf and out to the masses. While retail convenience marketing needs to factor in both distributors, cash and carry, buying groups and symbol group head offices, as well as lots of independent entrepreneurial retailers looking for an edge in a competitive marketplace. The common factor across these food and drink sectors is that these people are all crucial to your product’s success, but they are not your consumer, they are the gate keepers to reach your consumers. Of course, your consumers are also of paramount importance. Understanding more than a simple demographic will help you tailor your brand messaging, find out what they love doing, what will drive them to purchase, what media they engage with, who they admire and follow on social media, when and how they shop or eat out, what brands they currently like. Find out everything you can. You may find your distinct audiences are driven by different need states. Remember knowledge is power and that holds true for food and drink marketing and PR.
- Understand your market & competition
Even if you have a completely unique proposition you will have a competitive set. They may not be the same product, but they are competing for the same eating or drinking occasion. Work out where your brand sits and how you can set yourself apart. What claims can you make to create that differentiation in the market? Are you more authentic? Do you have a sustainability claim? Are you aspirational, exclusive and super-premium? Or are you cheap and cheerful? A simple positioning that appeals to your audience will help give you cut through. Plus, make sure your pricing reflects this. Ensure it’s realistic and allows for all the stages in the supply chain. You need to make money, but don’t forget so will your wholesaler, distributor or retailer.
- Find the right funding
Whether it’s family and friends, bank manager, crowd funding, venture capitalists, a big food co.’s incubator scheme, angel investors or even Dragon’s Den, make sure it’s right for you. Weigh up the pros and cons and be realistic about what you need. If you do go for crowdfunding, you’ll have a PR and marketing job to do just to get that message out. This is where social media can come into its own, but it pays to get the right advice from food and drink social media experts (I think you can guess who we mean). Whatever the funding route you take, have a clear business plan and a realistic budget. Always include a contingency, so you can take advantage of any last-minute opportunities at knock down rates.
- Food and drink packaging to appeal
Whether it is a product aimed at consumers, one aimed at chefs or caterers, or a new restaurant, make sure your offer is packaged to appeal. Think about the practicality of use, how packaging can help you stand out on shelf and what cues you want to get across in a split second. Often the packaging is what will get the crucial first purchase so don’t underestimate the importance of getting it right. It’s another thing to research with your target audience, whether it’s via focus groups, online panels or stopping people in the street.
- Get out there in the foodie world
The more you can learn from those who have been down this path the better. Get involved with organisations like E-Nation, Young Foodies and events like Bread & Butter. You need to seek out and meet the buyers at events. Building relationships with buyers and influencers and keeping in the loop with trends and market innovations will ensure you are in the best possible position to succeed. Food PR companies are a good place to start as they can advise you on what you should be reading, what events you should be attending and help you raise your profile to ensure you become part of this exciting world of food and drink brands.
- Work with food and drink marketing experts
Work with food and drink marketing experts, but before you do make sure you get them to sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure agreement), if your idea is as good as you think it is, you don’t want all and sundry knowing about it! Googling is your obvious start point, but it’s also worth approaching food and drink magazines and seeing if they can recommend a specialist agency (I can certainly think of one food and drink integrated agency that would be able to help!). Whether it’s food and drink packaging, food and drink PR, food and drink advertising, food and drink social media or food and drink consultancy, find people you want to work with, that share your values and understand your brand, most importantly that you trust and then take their advice. You might need a retail agency, a foodservice agency, a convenience agency or even one that covers all three areas (naming no names).
- Go digital
The market may be crowded and the challenges very real, but one of the major advantages you have is the power of social media. Social media is a game changer for small brands. No longer do you need thousands to advertise on TV to reach the masses, now some savvy social media and crucially some engaging content can get you far. Even better create something truly remarkable and you could go viral! With simple e-commerce solutions like Shopify you can sell direct to consumers, even before you have trade distribution in place. By working with an experienced specialist food agency with digital and social experts you can ensure you leverage this vital channel to your advantage.
- Have a plan
Whether it is to build your brand for generations to come or to create a challenger brand that the market leader won’t be able to resist acquiring (so you can kick-back on your yacht) make sure you know where you want to get to and make sure your partners share the same vision.
Hopefully some of these pointers will help you with your journey to launch your food or drink brand but nothing beats working with the experts, so we’d love to hear from you if you think we could help.
Interested? Why not get in touch today?