Artisan Purveyors dream in all shapes and sizes. Some dream in 12 oz. ringnecks, some in 5 oz. woozies, while others are stuck on the mason jar with that lovely gold tin lid. Many meander through aisles of shelves stacked with bottles in various sizes and forms—filled with hot sauce, barbecue sauce and salad dressings—dreaming about their brands on those shelves. We’ve done that with our own products at Purveyors Kitchen; on many occasions we will take a few clients’ bottles with mocked-up branding to the store and insert them among the other brands to see how they compare with the competition. We also always ask store department heads and management for their opinions because their feedback helps when you return to pitch the buyer.
The biggest dreamers are those who see their brands distributed from coast to coast and their recipe for Chicken Ginger Teriyaki in a Blue Apron box. But be careful of what you wish for: the chargebacks, minuscule margins and distribution challenges will eat you alive.
On a daily basis, Artisan Purveyors call Purveyors Kitchen to discuss establishing a co-packing relationship because their sauce is “the best anyone has ever tasted.” Many are seeking advice on developing a new recipe and want to understand best practices and procedures for launching a product in the commercial food marketplace. The requests vary as much as the ingredients, flavor profiles, product designs and personalities of the chefs and creators.
The challenges facing today’s Artisan Purveyors are more complex and difficult to navigate than ever before. With the continual consolidation of the nation’s food companies into conglomerates proudly producing food products, cleaning supplies, and fertilizers, the small Artisan Purveyor has a difficult road to success. And in many instances, Artisan Purveyors are being used as a test market for the big conglomerate’s natural and organic products, many of which are currently under development. (More on this later).
But before any product fights for shelf space, it needs to be produced at a reasonable price so it can first compete in the Artisan Purveyor marketplace. Unfortunately, after owning two grocery stores, a catering company, eight restaurants and a 60-foot antique catering yacht, I can attest to this fact: food margins are minuscule when launching a new brand, especially when using natural and organic-quality ingredients. Large food conglomerates buy ingredients on cost, not necessarily quality. That’s also the reason national food conglomerates look to high-margin products in the cleaning supply, pesticide, and fertilizer categories. Yum.
For the Artisan Purveyor with accelerated, entrepreneurial passion and vision, overcoming the challenges can be most rewarding. One of the major steps in overcoming challenges is to be realistic. Most people create their own challenges. Be as realistic as possible when in the early development stages.
A Realistic Recipe
If your recipe is complicated, change it. Bringing a complicated recipe to market will be expensive and time consuming. Sourcing hard-to-find ingredients takes time and money.
Unique bottles and die cut labels are beautiful. When we repositioned the Crocus Hill Market in St. Paul we featured the Rothschild Farms fruit in a bottle line. Robert Rothschild was not only the founder but also the salesperson back then. Although the bottles were stunning nobody wanted to open them. Not good for sales.
Recently we met with a group of culinarians who wanted to bring products to market. Their bottle choices could only run on a perfume line. Not so good for hot sauce. Be realistic with your packaging. It is important but it can be very expensive. The key is to be unique for the industry but within its standards.
A Realistic Business and Distribution Plan
Shooting for national distribution is a tremendous goal. And the easiest way to get there is to create a superior product, sell it for a reasonable price, have a decent hook for marketing, attract media buzz, build your brand, and the rest will come. The plan you develop is the most important element of the process. You need to prepare for a huge amount of work. Developing a concise business plan and outlining the steps needed to meet your goals, the challenges you think you will face and how you are preparing for those challenges will keep you focused.
Where does your product belong? That’s one of the first questions you need to answer. And once you establish that, think about your product being re-purposed. With a slight recipe change can a pasta sauce can become a pizza sauce? Is that really a new ketchup or is it a homemade barbecue starter?
Industry Knowledge and Tools
One of the major assets Artisan Purveyors share is each other’s knowledge. Although recipes are kept under wraps, the knowledge Artisans share is quite extensive. And, unlike so many other sectors filled with business secrets, food entrepreneurs enjoy engaging discussion.
Sales and Marketing plan
This is one of the most essential components of a successful product launch. A well thought-out marketing plan can be the foundation for impressive sales numbers. Most Artisans complete their marketing plans immediately after their product is produced. In reality, it should begin before the product is even manufactured. Building a community is essential to strong sales and marketing.
Today, an online presence is more than just a website. Social Media channels are available to everyone and are becoming mainstream entertainment for many consumers. The velocity by which a product can soar is exciting if planned and charted well. Custom content is one of the most engaging marketing tools in today’s marketplace. And, custom content works extremely well with cross channel broadcast and marketing.
Your company’s media kit is more than just an informational overview about your company. It needs to entice, excite and inform online influencers to taste your product and write about it. The media kit is as important as the product itself. It tells the story, which is the main ingredient.
Developing a sales support plan for your product will encourage buyers to take a look at your product and position it on the shelf. When pitching a buyer, let them know you have a sales and marketing plan to promote your product. Developing a sales plan can be as simple as regularly posting on Facebook to producing a complete video recipe series.
Yes, warehousing. Remember, you cannot keep a commercially-made and sold product in a residential facility. You need to establish a warehousing connection.
These tips will help you navigate a few bumps in the road, but remember, new bumps arise daily. The main key is to remember that if you can’t have fun with food, you can’t have fun.