Protein pioneer Lizanne Falsetto founded the revolutionary nutrition bar think!® and is the current CEO and founder of better country food™.
Since the sale of my company in 2015, I often get asked how I can bring a new product to the market. Just because you formulate a new product that is disrupting the industry doesn’t mean you can bring it to market right away.
Of course, the specifics of each field can lead to differences in how a particular product is marketed, but my favorite to quote and elaborate on is the protein industry. For example, a process called precision fermentation is changing the food industry by producing nutritious whey proteins without the use of animals, using fermentation to manipulate microorganisms to produce specific proteins. The process is already in use for decades for the production of insulin and cheese, among other things. Precision fermentation can alternatively create sustainable proteins that are efficient and environmentally friendly. So why hasn’t this technology gained traction yet? That is where market factors come into play.
Here are some common hurdles in getting a product to market and how to overcome them:
The general public’s lack of knowledge about a solution or technology can be a major barrier to adoption (and to retailers interested enough to buy). Education can help consumers understand the benefits of your solution and how it can improve their lives or the industry.
A confused mind will not buy. Educate the retail buyers you speak to about the importance of your innovations and how they will not only help consumers, but be demanded by them. For example, in the ’90s, I had people telling me to take “gluten-free” off my packaging, but despite these criticisms, I stuck to my message. I talked about gluten and how it reacts in the body, as well as with other allergens, not only for consumers, but for retail buyers as well.
2. Access to finance
New founders often face additional challenges getting their products on store shelves, including accessing adequate financing. Without sufficient funding, developing and bringing new products to market can be a daunting task. I recommend that entrepreneurs explore various financing options, such as venture capital, crowdfunding, and grants, to overcome this hurdle.
Start with your network and expand it outward – and don’t be afraid to look abroad for investments either. Just because the local economy is finicky and investors back home are suspicious, it doesn’t mean you can’t find investors in other countries who believe in you and your product. However, be careful where you upload your content, such as your funding deck. Competition is fierce in the food sector and in many other industries. Protect your IP as much as possible.
3. Extensive research and development (R&D)
Founders should conduct market research to identify their product’s target audience and understand their needs. It may seem overwhelming to set your direction, but keep these simple steps in mind: Define the problem or opportunity. Develop your marketing plan. Collect and analyze data, then execute your plan.
For example, there are now apps you can use while shopping to scan the items on the shelves and learn more about the ingredients they contain. Those in the food industry can watch your competitors and see what ingredients and production methods they use.
In addition, it is essential to prototype and test with potential consumers and work with regulatory authorities to ensure that the products meet the required safety and quality standards.
Once the product has been refined, it’s time to market it and build brand awareness. Take into account the trends in the field of current consumer wishes, such as sustainability and fair trade. Catering to those tastes can help you find your niche.
4. Right distribution channels
It is crucial to have a solid distribution strategy in place to get your product to the target audience. You want to understand the different categories of retailers such as natural products, drugs, convenience stores, clubs, etc. Each category has different buyers, size requirements, pricing models and levels of knowledge in your niche. For example, you don’t go to a Costco buyer with the same product as a Sprouts buyer. (Disclosure: My company works with Costco and Sprouts.) Your decisions here will affect your margin and the exact steps you need to take to distribute.
You also have the option to avoid retail altogether. You can pursue other angles, such as partnering with hotels or restaurants, or simply trying to launch D2C online through your own website or an affiliate channel like Amazon. (Disclosure: Amazon was a supplier to my company.) Be sure to research your options thoroughly to determine overheads, margins, and your cost of acquisition.
Keep in mind that every time you come up with something new and try to share it with the world, you may invite detractors and critics. I’ve had detractors try to spread misleading information campaigns around the innovations I brought to the table, and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that the voices at the root of misinformation are often those who benefit financially have it with you if your solution fails.
There are a few different ways I recommend responding. First, keep your messages consistent. Treat pushback as an opportunity to inform others about the truth, but also as an opportunity to learn more yourself. Also be curious about the mindset of your opposition: why do they have this negative opinion of your product? Are you too verbose in your communication? Are they your ideal customer? Do they have valid concerns that you need to address? Your answers to these questions will help you further.
Even products and practices that are as unequivocally beneficial and useful as possible can struggle to find the right audience and consumer base. New founders also face additional challenges, but with the right strategies and partnerships, entrepreneurs can succeed in bringing their products to store shelves.