Positioning Is the Key to a Successful Product Launch—Not Taste

For food entrepreneurs, the New Product Launch is the holy grail of your business.  This new product holds so much promise—it’ll increase your company’s market share, it’ll boost your annual revenue, and it’ll be the best product of its kind.  It’s easy to understand what you can gain from launching something new.  But what so many food entrepreneurs fail to understand is how to build an effective strategy.

Your ultimate goal is to launch a product that’s appealing to grocery stores and food retailers, and through this exposure, you’ll stand out from the competition, make it into a customer’s cart, and then onto their plates.  It sounds easy enough—Nielsen estimates that roughly 57% of shoppers like to purchase new products during each shopping trip.  But the odds are stacked against you.

Nielson also reports the U.S. market sees upwards of 20,000 new product launches annually, and only 24% of them stay on store shelves for a full calendar year.

These stats matter because Nielsen is not only a trusted authority with product launch data but they’ve also compiled their observations into the ultimate launch guide—12 Key Steps to Consumer Adoption.  If you heed their advice, you can avoid becoming part of the 76% that finishes the year in failure.

Of the 12 steps they cover, the first step is the most important.  If you can master this, you’ll have a serious shot at long-term success.

Create Unique Positioning
The first step in Nielsen’s report is “Distinct Proposition—Offer true innovation”.  One mistake food entrepreneurs make is relying on the taste or perceived superiority of their product.  The current market is chock full of “me too” products.  Whether you’re launching a garlic-infused olive oil, flavored honey, almond butter, or granola bars, it’s likely someone else has already done the same.  And should your product make it to the shelf, it’ll sit right alongside the competition.

Sure, it’s important for your product to deliver great taste once a customer takes it home.  But how are you grabbing their attention beforehand?  How do you communicate your product’s uniqueness and innovation?

Customers should feel an emotional connection to what you’re selling.  They should want it, and they should be able to afford it.  The trick here is that they need to realize these things before the seal has been broken.

Tweak your branding
Think about the variety of products at the supermarket.  Some of the direct competition with your product will be the supermarket’s own private label brands.  Those offerings will cost less despite probably using the same ingredients and providing similar taste.  Yet somehow, other brands have survived in this climate, and they’ve done so with branding.

What image are you using on your label?  How does your packaging stand out from everything else in the aisle?  Take Boxed Water, for instance.  The water aisle is probably one of the most competitive.  With storied and trusted brands like Zephyrhills and Poland Spring, and the recent onslaught of electrolyte-infused varieties from Smartwater and Essentia, it would seem there isn’t room for anyone else.  But Boxed Water did something no one else was doing—they put their water in a box instead of a bottle.  The brand also positioned their water as more environmentally-friendly, something that appealed to the globally conscious masses.  They achieved what seemed impossible; they launched an old product in a highly competitive environment…and succeeded.

Identify your differentiator
Your path to success involves understanding what makes your product special.  Though it’s important to promise and deliver quality, that’s not enough in an oversaturated market.  You need a differentiator. Whether it’s to help the environment, a charity or one’s personal health — the bottom line is that you need a niche.

What value does your product provide to the customer and to the retailer who distributes it?  What’s the distinction between your brand and the others?  If you can clearly identify this from the start, you can successfully launch your product, and you can ensure success long past the first year.