How not to die (as a food business) by achieving Product Market Fit

Don’t feel like reading? Listen instead.

As you know, I work with food entrepreneurs, helping them to make the move from startup to scaleup. It can be a difficult journey and it challenges pre-conceived ideas at every step.

Don’t fall prey to this common business-killing notion

One of the business-killing assumptions that many of them make is that others care as much about their products as they do themselves

After all, it’s their baby, they poured time, passion and cash into it. They frequently made significant sacrifices to get their project off the ground. Surely it’s only fair to expect some sort of a positive, even welcoming, response from the market, whether that market is end-users, distributors or retailers. 

Unfortunately, thinking like that is a fundamental mistake that sinks far too many businesses. 

Here’s the biggest truth that you need to get comfortable with if you want to run a successful food business: 

  1. People don’t care about your product. 
  2. People care about achieving their goals.

In Canada, over 80% of all newly launched food businesses won’t exist within 5 years, they’ll go out of business. 47%, almost half, fail because they don’t achieve what’s called Product Market Fit. 

They didn’t understand that people don’t care about products, people care about what a product can do for them.

What’s Product Market Fit and why is it so important?

Product Market Fit simply means “a product that people want to buy because it solves a problem they have”. 

Some examples of common consumer problems that my clients are busy solving include: 

  • “I want to cut down on alcohol. As I am getting older, my hangovers are getting worse. But I still want to drink something interesting” (Being solved by Boreal Botanical Brewing Company with alcohol-free botanical tonics brewed with functional mushrooms)
  • “I want to remove gluten from my diet, but I don’t like the flavour of most gluten-free snacks. I want something that doesn’t taste like crap and doesn’t contain any either.” (Being solved by Mandioca with naturally gluten-free cheese pops)
  • “I don’t trust mass-produced honey, because it’s often faked with sugar syrups. I want to know where my honey comes from and who makes it.” (Being solved by Ontario Honey Creations with locally made honey products)

What you’re selling needs to solve a consumer problem. If it doesn’t, then you don’t have a business, you have a hobby. 

But what about your passion? 

Passion is an important part of being successful, especially when you’re launching a food business. Often, people launch their CPG startup to scratch a personal itch. Especially when times are difficult, that passion and drive can help you overcome obstacles.

To give yourself the best chance of succeeding, your business should be launched at the intersection of personal passion and data-driven insight into consumer pain points.

Follow these three steps that will help you put your business into this perfect zone.

  1. Define your ideal customer

Rather than trying to understand the entire market, try and build a customer persona for one single person, your ideal customer. Give that person a name, a job. How old are they, what’s their gender, do they have kids, where do they live? What are their values?

Focusing on one single person makes it much easier to define the consumer problem you’re solving with your product.

  1. Define their pain points

Once you know who your ideal customer is, define the problem that your product is solving for them. Again, be as precise as you possibly can be.

  • How will your product make their life better?
  • How much do they need these pain points solved? Are we talking about a vitamin (nice to have) or a pain killer (must have now)?
  • What would the consequences be for them if your product would not exist?

Here’s an example for my own company, Boreal Botanical:

Boreal Botanical’s alcohol-free tonics make our customer’s life better by giving them an alternative to alcoholic drinks that are not boring, not full of sugar and offer real functional benefits because they are brewed and blended with real medicinal mushroom extracts.

The drinks are a social lubricant that’s full of functional benefits, enabling them to connect with others without the need for alcohol.

If our product would not exist, they would have to default back to boring or unhealthy alternatives, perhaps even to the alcoholic drinks they are trying to reduce or avoid.

  1. Use data to validate

Now that you know who you’re selling to and what problem you’re solving for them, use data to make sure that a wider market exists.

From reading publications like this newsletter or the blog on our website to using tools like Google Trends and Answer the Public, there are many options available that deliver the insight you need to decide on whether your product will be able to achieve product-market fit.

Some of the market validation tools we use at Nourish Nurture include:

Get early access to my free course

I am currently developing a free course that explains in detail how to use these data tools to create your own Go-To-Market Plan and ensure that your product has Product Market Fit.

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