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A Wharton-Style Checklist Meets Fancy Foods
by Terrence J. Pranses

Having a deep and lasting involvement with upscale foods and beverages, it was a happy moment when some Metro New York alumni pulled together the Wharton Retail Network, which includes an emphasis on food marketing. Yes, the Wharton School is well known for finance and real estate, but you’ll find us working in many more areas.

A recent meeting was a “boot camp” for those with newer, smaller brands, or concepts, trying to start, survive, grow or even flourish in one of America’s biggest industries. Happily, we could learn from folks in the know – those with brands and investments on the front line. So touring the Fancy Food Show in NYC, I had another set of “glasses” to review some brands.

The Checklist from Entrepreneurs

This sub-group includes now-established and still growing entries in the candy, condiment and health bar segments. (Perfect … from indulgent to nutritional!) Their “make sure” check list includes:

  1. Have a distinct product … easier said than done … distinct for the consumer and the trade.
  2. Have a clear brand strategy … assess close-in competitors and do not be “me too”.
  3. Identify a high quality and scalable supply chain … it’s not wise to grow demand then be unable to meet it!
  4. Identify marketing sweet spots … those geographic and demographic markets where your brand can make inroads quickly. One mentioned the concentration of the market for natural foods in the metros of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston, and has had substantial growth with limited rollout.
  5. Plus, for most with no ability for an inside sales force, utilize well-connected brokers willing to sign non-competes.

Obviously this list skips directly to marketing strategy and tactics. In hundreds of focus groups and interviews, I’ve always found that a good taste experience is a requisite.

Tips from a Buyer

We had the benefit of perspectives from a buyer with the challenge of selecting from a phalanx of new brands. There’s growing consumer interest in upscale markets to see more local brands, and buyers like to be surprised by a new product and it’s marketing or packaging approach.

At the Fancy Food Show

With thousands of products, many new or at least new at this level, a few entries caught my attention as off and running.

The Wine RayZyn Company

A most interesting new concept is Wine RayZyns, out of Napa. Dried wine quality grapes with a great anti-oxidant story. Their samples provide intense flavor and a slight crunch in Cabernet Sauvingnon, Merlot and Chardonnay varieties. A visit to their rustic booth and wine flight tasting set-up provided a “mini-vacation” moment in vast and busy Javits Hall.

Pop I.Q. Snacks

Their Air Popped Sorghum takes a healthy and widely grown grain to provide a fun, light popped experience without those inconvenient hulls. It’s non-GMO, gluten and preservative free, with a long list of nutrients. The varieties extend the experience from simple joy (Salt & Pepper) to more savory flavor notes (Cheddar, Tuscany) to a little sweet (Kettle).

Roland Foods Shrubs

Roland Foods is certainly no stranger to the show, again showcasing its huge array of products, many with packaging upgrades over the last few years. I didn’t know the term “shrubs”. Their representative told me it developed a couple of hundred years back in England, and a quick online search confirms. Roland Shrubs are fruit-infused vinegars, designed for cocktails and beverages. With a list including plum, fig and honey & ginger, it should make for terrific experiments by all mixologists.

These are a few products off to a good start with uniqueness yet some ties to tradition. All pass the taste test. And in all cases, their representatives at the Show project the excitement of the products. How they progress with strategy, sourcing, scaling and targeting is worth tracking.


Need to make sure your brand is optimizing performance on the marketing checklist?

Please contact Terry to make sure your plans reflect consumer interests and trade requirements:

Phone: 201-659-2475
Email: terry@pransesresearch.com

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