432 N. Lake Street Madison, WI 53706  608-890-0780

Insights Newsletter

Your Relationships With Your Customers Are Your Food Business’ Biggest Asset

Your Relationships With Your Customers Are Your Food Business’ Biggest Asset

In a marketplace with rapidly changing food preferences, restrictions, diets and ethical concerns around food production, one of your biggest challenges is figuring out how to deliver a product that solves enough problems for the right customers while building a strong relationship with them. Food entrepreneurship is a stressful endeavor, full of obstacles and roadblocks. No entrepreneur does it alone, and in addition to having a great team at the governance and management levels, the best food entrepreneurs develop deep enough relationships with their customers so that their customers become deeply invested in the company’s success.

Continue Reading
Great Food Entrepreneurs Are Always Learning

Great Food Entrepreneurs Are Always Learning

We have found that the best entrepreneurs are constantly seeking new learning experiences. This includes getting constant feedback from their customers, to reaching out to potential mentors for advice, to attending industry events and tradeshows to network with and learn from their peers and industry veterans. Sometimes, learning means “un-learning” something these entrepreneurs thought was essential to their business when they launched, whether their packaging or messaging or even their original business model. In short, good food entrepreneurs learn to adapt and know that some of their original assumptions will be proven wrong as they validate their products in the market.

Continue Reading
Where Does My Food Brand Need To “Be”?

Where Does My Food Brand Need To “Be”?

There are wide variety of tools and marketplaces to reach customers for today’s food brands. And, sometimes the ideal distribution path looks different than the entrepreneur intended when they started the business. The brands that survive today’s marketplace will be making decisions about distribution and channels of delivery with their customers’ expectations and preferences center stage.

Continue Reading
Building A Defensibly Unique Food Supply Chain

Building A Defensibly Unique Food Supply Chain

There are many ways to make your food company be defensibly unique. This can include building an innovative brand that speaks to consumers that weren’t being spoken to before and stands out in its category or categories. This could mean developing a proprietary technology or process that allows you to make truly unique products. This could mean sourcing unique ingredients from a known and understood supply chain. However, what if they supply chain didn’t already exist? Could you build a supply chain that is defensibly unique? Building markets and the supply chain relationships necessary to support them requires a long-term vision that aligns consumers, suppliers, funders and their brand. But, if it is properly built and capitalized, it can lead to a defensibly unique business model that allows that food company to be built to last.

Continue Reading
Food Businesses Need To Pay For Space And Attention, Even on Amazon

Food Businesses Need To Pay For Space And Attention, Even on Amazon

“This product sells itself!” Have you ever heard that expression? It’s one of those clichés that is unfortunately not true. While there are things you can do to gain awareness, interest and trust in the marketplace, no product, food or otherwise, sells itself. People’s time and attention are limited, and often the biggest challenge with acquiring new customers for food businesses is getting those customers to try the product. Because the food space is competitive, online and off, emerging food companies have to spend lots of marketing and sales dollars to get people’s attention by paying to have their product in the right place with the right positioning.

Continue Reading
Shifting Farm Business Models

Shifting Farm Business Models

Agriculture is a tough business to be in. According to an analysis by the Farm Bureau, median on-farm household income has been negative for the past 20 years. This means that every year for the past 20 years, more than ½ of all farms in the United States were unprofitable! Many of these farms have kept their cash flow positive by increasing their debt load, and individual farms might be profitable one year and unprofitable the next. Finding new business models that allow farmers to be profitable while meeting changing consumer demand will require high-quality technical assistance and coordinated effort on the part of farmers, brand-builders, lenders, investors and consumers.

Continue Reading
Food Companies Grow In Stair Steps, Not Incrementally

Food Companies Grow In Stair Steps, Not Incrementally

While established food companies can grow slowly and still be profitable, this is much harder, if not impossible, for emerging food companies. Food companies, because they deal in physical products often produced from a long and complex supply chain, grow in stair steps, not incrementally, in order to reach the right scale to be profitable. And, these companies often have to quickly leap up each step so they don’t run out of money, often with the help of outside capital.

Continue Reading
Shared Financial Management Builds Alignment For Food Businesses

Shared Financial Management Builds Alignment For Food Businesses

Entrepreneurship is a really difficult enterprise. There are a lot of things for one person to learn how to do well. Imagine if you as an entrepreneur tried to help everyone understand what needed to be done to make the business succeed. How do you even go about having that conversation and leading that charge? One strategy that some food entrepreneurs employ is open-book management. Open book management is essentially sharing the company’s finances and key financial drivers openly with managers to increase their buy-in and understanding of the company’s performance. By sharing company finances and expecting financial literacy of managers, open-book management allows multiple leaders to use the same language and work towards the same goal.

Continue Reading
Focused Prioritization Helps Good Food And Farm Businesses Reach Break-Even

Focused Prioritization Helps Good Food And Farm Businesses Reach Break-Even

Food entrepreneurs will always have lots of goals competing for their attention. Given that food entrepreneurs have many “big, hairy, audacious goals,” it is worth noting that certain goals should have more priority over others, depending on the stage of the entrepreneur. For example, many food entrepreneurs want their business to reflect their social impact goals. But they shouldn’t do this to the exclusion of the brand building necessary to tell that impact story (and capitalize on it with a premium price) or the long-term financial viability of their business. The good entrepreneurs know how to prioritize goals and optimize their efforts for the goals they are pursuing as priorities. This allows them to build financially successful companies and, over time, pursue many more “big, hairy, audacious goals” than they would have otherwise.

Continue Reading
Why Private Label Might Be A Great Business Decision

Why Private Label Might Be A Great Business Decision

The average full grocery store has nearly 40,000 SKUs i.e. products that it offers to consumers. Consumers have more choices than ever about what food they buy and where they buy it. But, it is becoming more difficult and expensive for new food brands to build meaningful relationships with them as the marketplace becomes more saturated. To capture more customer value, grocery stores have introduced their own branded products alongside others that they bring in on their shelves, often referred to as “private label” products. While private label products’ market share has held steady at about 18% in recent years, private label brands are now growing faster than traditional manufactured food brands. If food companies have manufacturing capabilities, making private label products can be a valuable part of their business model as they build their customer relationships, maximize production efficiency and diversify revenue streams.

Continue Reading