Monthly Archives: January 2018

Five things customers REALLY want from their food

The consumer is no longer a simple animal. There is the paradox of choice that renders most people incapable of change. 85% of our food purchases never change. Most people eat the same sandwich for lunch every day. Online ordering from Ocado, Just Eat etc reminds us what we bought last time and, despite all the interrupters in the world, the majority of people get the same stuff

So what’s the secret to getting people to buy more food – what do they REALLY want?

  1. To save money – I talk to a lot of food start ups who are all creating premium brands. There are niches for these but the majority of people have little money so think about ways you can save the customer money and yet create value and profit at the same time – Aldi and Lidl have managed it!
  2. To eat really tasty food – it is important that food tastes good – it seems obvious but how many people have bought a snack bar that tastes like ground up shoes? Or had a sandwich that is bland, soggy and uninteresting? People want to enjoy their food! So many worthy brands do not deliver on taste – yet the successful ones do – making it yummy and scrummy is the key so long as you observe the next point…..
  3. To stay healthy –not everyone is obsessed with health but many consumers want to know that the manufacturer has thought it through – kept the salt low, not put in dodgy fats, high sugar or other additives.  So many premium own label ready meals, such as Finest and Taste the difference, are high in fat or salt or both – it does make it tasty but there needs to be a balance
  4. To treat themselves and add joy to their lives – most people view treats as unhealthy – wine, cheese or chocolate. But it provides a short term fix of joy. The only product I have found that is a healthy treat is sushi – which does actually research as both.  People use food to help them feel better eg when something bad happens, breaking up the monotony of the day with a great lunch sandwich or demonstrating how foodie they are by having the latest recipe or ingredient. So create amazing happy products both in their recipes and marketing
  5. To add joy to others – as we approach Christmas, this is the backbone of the retailer adverts. Creating amazing food to share, impress and please others. To make life easy when entertaining, to demonstrate our cleverness at finding such interesting products or just showing the love by feeding others

And what is missing from that list? Actually to provide the body with nourishment and fuel for the day – the real purpose of eating!! But somehow that has become a given – I did some research on diet foods recently and we got 20 reasons why people eat before we actually got to “to stay alive”

So when designing your products, creating marketing stories or choosing positioning, it is important to think about which of these basic needs are you fulfilling. Try this 3 point plan to draw up what your customer really wants

  1. Who are your buyers? Use your social media or sales data to get a feel for the demographics).
  2. What do they really want – what is their key goal from the 5 – are they living to eat or eating to live?
  3. How do they think? Are they cautious people or spontaneous? Innovators or laggards – if they don’t like change – can you force it upon them or do you just get them to buy more

What is their decision tree for buying products and how can you catch them through marketing, packaging design or merchandising as they shop

If you would like more detail on this subject, chapter 3 of my book Recipe for success – ingredients of a profitable food company is a good place to start. Click here to order on Amazon

5 Mistakes to avoid in 2018

Last year I wrote a book called – Recipe for success – the ingredients of a profitable food business and whilst it is aimed at food producers, the principles are just as applicable to any consumer good whether that is a chocolate mousse or a mascara


And so are the mistake that companies make time and time again in selling and marketing their lovely products.  2018 is going to be a tough year – food inflation is still on the up, Brexit uncertainty is going to continue to bite and experts are predicting a share price crash.  So what mistakes should you avoid in 2018?


  1. Creating a product that is too expensive to sell – let’s be honest, we all pay a bit too much for somethings – the branded trainers, the luxury perfume. But in general, there is a ceiling price for a category whether it is food or toiletries. Make sure that before you design your product – you research what the market will bear in terms of retail price and design your packaging, recipe/formulation accordingly.
  2. Going mass market when niche is so much more productive

When I wrote my book, I aimed at a specific niche of food producers – I may have sold more copies if I had written a general business book but there are so many more people out there with that type of book and readers are harder to find.  With a niche positioning, you can target your marketing more effectively and identify a gap in the market that other people are not filling and therefore it makes it easier to sell to your retailers and distributors  Take the example of Pip n Nut – she started by offering nut butters in sachets – finding a niche of providing nut butters on the go – she established the brand, got some traction and then expanded into broader markets, couple of years later – creating a business that is now turns over £9m

  1. Running before you can walk – so many start ups that I meet, want to launch into the multiple retailers (my area of expertise) before they have established any sales on the ground. They also look for investor funding when they don’t have one sale under their belt other than a few market stalls. Build a solid strategy for your business with a route to market that covers at least the first two years and establish a track record and traction.  The exception to this is probably Brew Dog who went from selling a few high alcohol beers to suddenly being asked to supply 200 stores – a rare X factory moment but from that they flew to a business that has been valued at upto £1bn!!
  2. Not thinking beyond the first listing – when we first start a business, we become obsessed with getting that retail listing – but then when its in the store – what do you do to keep it selling? There are so many ways to sell product through – sampling, promotions and social media – focus in on your key retailers and boost their sales. You also need to consider pipe fill with new products. If you think about Cauli rice, they started with a one product (clue is in the title) and then expanded into a number of different flavoured rice.  They are now changing their name to Full green as they want to expand into other vegetables such as sweet potato rice etc.  Evolution not revolution (although total brand name change is revolution!!)
  3. Trying to do it all yourself – my resolution for 2018 is to outsource as much as I can in terms of accountancy and admin (my worst nightmares) and social media – which I have learnt to do reasonably well but am sure someone else could do a lot better. As an entrepreneur, we are all run ragged trying to do everything and we get exhausted and burnt out.


Work with a business mentor like myself (and there are plenty for free as well – try Princes Trust, if you are sub 30, Virgin startup and local authorities) to plan out your business priorities and what you can delegate.  I know it sounds expensive but think of the opportunity cost of your time – can you make more money focussing on selling more products and building a promotional programme vs sitting at a computer screen trying to do your receipts!!


Avoid these big 5 mistakes and you will have a very prosperous and happy 2018!