Defining Your Category in a Crowded Market

The natural, organic and specialty food world can feel crowded sometimes, especially when you think of densely populated categories like granola (117 in a recent search on Amazon), or trail mix (1,258).  The reason that these categories get crowded is because the barriers to entry are relatively low.  Making granola, while very satisfying for a home cook, takes ingredients, a few sheet trays and mixing bowls and an oven.  Trail mix requires even fewer inputs.  Making these products commercially does not require a high degree of culinary skill.

Both of these categories have some very high quality products and they are deserving of the sales that they earn.  Creating a food product that can fight off the competition is a daunting challenge.

Have a barbeque sauce that all of your friends rave about?  Do you make the best chocolate chip cookies in the county? That’s awesome!  Before you start developing a food product that you wand to have sold at retail, it’s critical to carefully ask yourself (and answer) a few big questions:

1. Who’s going to buy my product?  Your customers, or your target market, are you most important constituency.  Pleasing the customers by fulfilling a need of theirs is critical to your success.

2. What’s my competition?  Where are your desired customers currently getting what you plan to sell.  Unless you are lucky enough to have discovered a new super-fruit from the South American rainforest, or invented the greatest thing since sliced gluten-free bread, chances are you are trying to sell something that someone else already has on the market.  How is yours better and different?

3. Why would someone buy my product instead of what’s already out there?  Point of differentiation, value proposition, x-factor, silver bullet, are all terms used by marketers to describe the attribute that one product has to separate it from all the others.  As a food manufacturer, your product must have something about it that sets it apart from the hundreds of other products in your category that are entering the market each year.

4. How will I make money?  Obvious, yes, but not easy.  Ingredients, labor, packaging, rent, utilities, insurance, transportation are all costs that you need to invest before you can make your first sale.

Do you have an amazing product that you want to take to retail?  Nice!  I’d love to help.  I have 15 years of experience in the retail food business and I can work with your company to get your products launched, growing or relaunched quickly.  Contact jonathan@jonathanpackman.com to start the conversation.

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