Last week, I attended the BC Food Processors Association’s annual industry event - FoodProWest 2017 - with my colleague, Pam, from BrainComm Strategy + Design. It was the BCFPA’s 10th anniversary and their largest event yet, attracting over 700 food and beverage processors and industry stakeholders.
As a first-timer at this show, I was happy to see the range of new and established brands represented. One newborn brand that caught my eye, and delighted my taste buds, was Nora’s non-dairy ice cream. This show was their launch party, so to speak, as they were introducing their product to the trade for the very first time. Made with a combination of coconut milk and cashew milk, this ice cream is unbelievably creamy and comes in four summer-worthy flavours. For the sake of dairy and non-dairy ice cream lovers everywhere, I hope they secure some distribution quickly because I need more Nora’s this summer!
Sun-Rype, a legendary BC food brand that’s been around since 1946, was also exhibiting at the show. Over the years, they have expanded their range of products from the 100% pure apple juice that so many of us grew up with into other juices and beverages, fruit snacks and more. But they also sampled some exciting new products at the show that I hadn’t seen before. Of their four new Sparkling Teas, the Green Tea Honey Lemon was my favourite. It was light and refreshing, with lots of flavour, and would make a great mixer for a summer cocktail. I was surprised to see they also now have a hard cider, which originally launched as a special edition product last summer to celebrate Sun-Rype’s 70th anniversary. It did so well they decided to make it a permanent addition to their product portfolio, which can be found at select private liquor stores in BC and Alberta.
Another discovery at the show was a line of amazing Indian sauces from Sutra Foods. Paul Gill and his wife, Pari, make delicious sauces that are easily transformed into meals with the addition of vegetables or protein. My favourite, the Korma sauce, was as tasty with salmon as it was with chicken. For consumers and foodservice alike, these bagged sauces are a handy option for full-flavoured Indian goodness without having to spend hours in the kitchen.
One of my other favourites at the show was a protein bar made of bugs - crickets that is. Coast Protein uses cricket flour to deliver 10 g of protein per bar. The founder, Dylan Jones, is passionate about increasing the acceptance and consumption of this sustainable protein in North America. The samples I tried were delicious and you really couldn’t tell they contained ground crickets. Kudos to Dylan and his team for creating tasty and nutritious insect-based foods.
As someone who has worked with and for many food & beverage brands across North America, it makes me proud to see these BC-based gems. I think our entrepreneurial spirit is part of the secret sauce that makes the West a hotbed of innovation, especially in healthy and sustainable products. All this continues to feed my desire to help make BC brands a success, across the country and North America, through smart marketing strategies.
There are many decisions and steps involved in launching a new food or beverage product. One of the biggest challenges companies face is convincing a grocery buyer to add their new product to their shelves. You can see why it is so difficult when you take a closer look at those shelves - space is limited and very full.
Let’s look at some numbers. The average size of US supermarkets has been decreasing since 2006*, according to Packaged Facts, with a median store size of 42,800 sq. ft. in 2015. This may sound large but not so when you consider how many items stores typically carry. According to the Food Marketing Institute, there were an average of 39,500 items per supermarket in the US in 2015**. That equates to just over one square foot of space per item - a clear example of how limited and, therefore, valuable grocery shelf space really is.
And yet, more and more new products are being developed and launched every year. The Expo West trade show, held in Anaheim every March, is one of the largest natural products shows. In 2016 there were over 500 new exhibitors and this year there were another 500-plus; a significant number were food and beverage companies. That adds up to very stiff competition for a finite number of opportunities. So the challenge is much more than convincing grocery buyers to add your product to their shelves. The real challenge is convincing grocery buyers to replace an existing product already on the shelf with yours. And that is a very tall order.
One way to improve your odds is to design a product with benefits that address multiple consumers’ needs. Take MadeGood Foods for example, a Canadian company I ran across a few years ago at Expo West. The granola bar category is very competitive, with a multitude of options already on shelf. However, MadeGood went above and beyond when they developed theirs. Not only are they made with whole grains, gluten-free and low in sugar, they are also certified organic and non-GMO. Plus they’re school friendly (i.e. free of the top 8 allergens) and each bar has the nutrients of one full serving of vegetables.
MadeGood granola bars clearly fulfill the needs of many different consumers. Having multiple benefits that speak to different types of consumers can become a challenge when deciding who to target and what your messaging should be. But it is a stronger pitch to grocery buyers and increases the chances that your product will be on-shelf for consumers to find. So, if you are developing a new product, consider the real challenge in securing grocery shelf space and hedge your bets by meeting multiple consumers’ needs. This is one of those times when more is definitely better.
I have a curious mind and many interests. I like to spend time musing about things marketing-related, as well as how technology impacts our world.