How to Launch a Successful New Food Product

Nielsen 12 Steps Consumer Adoption


The success rate for new product launches in the food and beverage business is around 10 percent, according to NielsenWire. That's not because the other 90 percent tasted lousy, or at least many of them didn't. They just didn't have the right new product launch plan.

An entrepreneur starting a food business can spend precious marketing dollars only to run into trouble getting into retailers and onto the consumer's plate and, eventually, staying in business.

That's where NielsenWire's 12 Key Steps to Consumer Adoption can help. NielsenWire is a research giant that scoops up information from the supermarket scanner and turns it into valuable information that supermarkets and food and beverage brands use across the U.S.

I have worked with hundreds of food entrepreneurs, and have seen far too many failed new product launches. I think it's worth expanding on Nielsen's "Step 1" because a new product's survival depends on it:

Have a Distinct Proposition For Your Food

It takes more than a great tasting product to pitch the supermarket buyer and then to get the customer to try your product, much less buy it again. Your product must be positioned as truly different from the competition. (See 5 Steps to Positioning Food and Beverage Products to help you determine if your product really is different.) You have to separate your emotional investment in the product to really answer that question.

Recognize that today's consumers are stretched to the limit with their food budgets, and affordability is a major factor for most. The industry's Fancy Food Show highlights far too many "me too" products. Do we really need another premium-priced barbecue sauce, unsweetened tea, chocolate, or olive oil?

Some of those "me too" products are going to thrive despite competition from the many private-label store brands of foods that aren't very different and cost less for the same ingredients. The answer is branding.

Build a brand that speaks to your consumer, and your image and packaging may be the distinct proposition that leads to your success. What was so different about Late July snack chips from the other chips out there? It was an image and packaging that appealed to a particular subset of consumers. The brand thrived and ultimately was acquired. 

How to Sell Another Carrot Cake Brand

The maker of a new brand of carrot cake once contacted me for some help in launching it. You might ask who needs another carrot cake. It was a good question in this case, and the maker was not communicating the answer to consumers and potential buyers.

But this was not just another carrot cake. This was an authentic Southern-style carrot cake. That difference allowed them to credibly pitch supermarket buyers that this product was unique and would bring new customers into their bakery departments.

There's a big difference between saying, "We make carrot cake," and saying, "We make an authentic Southern-style line of gluten-free and all-natural cakes and cupcakes that look and taste like homemade." Which one would you buy?