A great idea for a new specialty foods product will get you to the starting line but from there, it’s still a long race to get that product onto supermarket shelves, according to branding expert Chris Cornyn from DINE Marketing, one of a few companies in the country that can help a food producer take its product from an idea on a white sheet of paper to the supermarket shelf.
“DINE helps smaller food entrepreneurs take their product and make sure they have a fighting chance among 40,000 SKUs to get purchased from the shelf,” he says.
Cornyn is also one of the three judges/mentors on the new Lifetime network program “ Supermarket Superstar,” in which contestants are competing their way through the process from idea all the way to presenting a branded, fully developed product to a supermarket buyer. The two other judges on the panel are Debbi Fields of Mrs. Fields Cookies and celebrity restaurateur and chef Michael Chiarello.
The average consumer takes only 2.6 seconds to decide whether to pick up a product from the grocery store shelf or not, and it’s the package rather than the product itself that tips that decision, Cornyn says. You may have a great idea for a new food product, but you need what Cornyn calls shelf-evident positioning, which means that what the consumer sees on the store’s shelf must communicate what the product is, how it’s different from other similar products and why the consumer should choose it.
“Packaging is the product,” Cornyn says.
So how do you get from idea to shelf-evident position?
Well, first you have to have a product that tastes good, and then you have to make sure that the people who love you aren’t the only ones who think so. “Even if your whole family likes it, they’re not your customers. You have to go out of your region, and you have to go beyond the people who are obliged to say they love it,” Cornyn says.
Take a look at the market and make sure that your product is different from everything else already out there. If your product is no different from a dozen others already on the supermarket shelves, you’re unlikely to persuade the supermarket’s buyer that he should trade in a supplier that he already trusts in favor of buying from you. “You need to own something that is yours and yours only, that nobody else can occupy that space,” Cornyn says.
Then, well before you start putting your product in a jar, you need to learn the food business. Talk to people at your local farmers market, people with products that you love, and ask them for advice. Read books about the industry. Talk to people at your local supermarket. “There are a lot of organizations that can help. Specialty Food Association offers seminars on pricing. Figure out the mechanics of the business,” Cornyn advises. “It isn’t the sexiest; it isn’t why you want to go into the business, but if you do it, you can get to the fun stuff.”
And while you’re at it, start by watching Supermarket Superstar on your Lifetime channel Monday nights at 10 p.m. for more free advice on how to build a brand in the marketplace. For more information about DINE Marketing, visit dinemarketing.com.