Guest blogger João Gouveia, Founder of INIU, gives his seven steps to creating a successful health food start up….
Everyone wants to be healthier. As a result health drinks and other health foods are growth markets. If you’d like to launch your own health food or beverage brand, I hope you’ll be able to make use of what I learned through starting INIU. Here are some key principles and practices that will help you on your way.
Identify your big idea
Define your ‘what’ and more importantly identify your ‘why’. The ‘what’ is usually straightforward, but the ‘why’ is critical. It will form the basis of your brand story and the passion that drives you.
My “what” is simple – fresh juice. My “why” being healthy, fewer hours shopping, and less kitchen time combining ingredients to make this fresh juice for my family.
I came up with INIU because it avoided choosing between convenience and healthy eating. I located and solved a problem on a small scale.
Take it further. Ask where and when. How big can your idea get? Keep stretching it to find out where it breaks (hypothetically).
Finally are there new markets you can push into in the future? For example, with INIU, we can tackle snacking. The vision is to start with juices and then move beyond that. Don’t think big – think huge!
With these answers you’ll have created your plan.
Is there a market for my product?
To figure this out you need to test your idea or product on as many different and diverse people as possible.
✓ Have your friends try the product
✓ Get feedback; listen to it, learn from it
✓ Work out what they actually expect from your product or one like it
✓ If necessary, adapt
Even with a small test-group, if people want to buy it, you could have a market. Then it’s time to widen the net, start testing larger focus groups.
Invest in market research to fine-tuning of your product and filter everything into your marketing plan.
Don’t forget to research your competition. You will need to have a crystal-clear picture of what’s happening in the market you hope to enter.
Great product idea, now what?
Having validated your idea you need to turn it into a product. That means figuring out how and where to produce it.
Getting the recipes right, in our case, required working with professional nutritionists. Experts can help you balance ingredient combinations so they taste great and are good for you.
Based on our research we decided on flash freezing our juices to preserve as much of the original nutritional content as possible. The next step was to find the right facility capable of producing them. Avoid the temptation to try setting up your own production facility. The best bet is to find a reliable production facility, certified to handle food that can scale in production as your demands do.
Create a brand
You’re not just launching another drink or food item, you are launching a new brand with its own identity. It’s important to start thinking about this early, and to trademark it so that no copycats can steal the results of your hard work.
Part of your brand identity is knowing what makes you different to (and hopefully better than) everything else out there. This differentiation will be vital for targeting your chosen consumers. Your brand, its story and potential are all part of what they’re buying into. The way to introduce this story and your brand’s personality to consumers is through marketing.
With limited resources you need an effective way to reach your target market. Work with influencers who truly believe in your product. Treat your loyal customers well and nurture that special relationship so they become brand ambassadors, sharing your message over social media.
It’s true – there’s no better marketing than word of mouth. However, look at options for PR, social media, blogging, YouTube, paid advertising and exhibitions too. Although your budget dictates a lot of what you can and can’t do – it’s best to consider every option and to understand its benefits, challenges and costs. Then you can make sensible, helpful decisions.
Make sure you stand out
Your packaging is a consumer’s first impression of your product and plays a vital role in making your brand recognisable. It needs to stand out from your competitors. Go to a wide variety of shops; study your competitors again. How your design will fit within and stand out once on the shelf?
I strongly advise against DIY design. Get it done professionally; keep working with the designers until you’re happy that it has your voice, style and individuality.
There are practical considerations: how the packaging will handle when delivered by post; and how the product will interact with the packaging? You don’t want packaging that’s easily damaged, or quickly looks tatty on the shelf. If you’re a health product then anticipate customers expecting the product and the packing to be environmentally conscious.
Work on your finances, particularly your pricing and cashflow. Understand all your costs and margins. You won’t expect profit immediately, but you need to plan your financials as if your survival depends on it, because it does.
To attract retailers you need a clear USP. Leveraging customer feedback and demonstrating demand will improve your chances of bagging a retail contract. Retailers need to be confident that it will sell – not just take up valuable shelf space.
The retailer route takes resources; time to negotiate these contracts and the facilities to meet their volume demand. There may be other channels, including direct to consumers, which will get your product out there.
Surround yourself with a great team
If you try to do everything on your own the struggle will be tougher, and you’ll soon find yourself second guessing each decision. The key to scaling up quickly is utilising the experience, knowledge and innovation of others.
Find people that are passionate about the brand, are highly skilled, and above all have an incredible work ethic. The team is the bedrock of any successful business.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
João Gouveiais the founder of INIU – a range of functional fruit and vegetable juices that are 100% natural, with no added sugar, preservatives or other additives. Cryogenically frozen, INIU juices retain up to 99% of their nutrients and taste. Launched in Portugal in 2017, INIU was nominated for the Innovation Award at the Food Entrepreneur Show 2018 in London and is now launching in the UK. See www.iniu.pt for more information.