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Trying to create a new category? Follow these 10 tips

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The challenges of launching a new, never-before-seen food product can be daunting. Dang Foods founder Vincent Kitirattragarn shares tips for natural brands that are trying to create a new category.

Successfully launching any food product is difficult. Launching a product never before seen in the market is even harder. On top of convincing buyers to stock your product, you have to deal with first mover challenges like lack of consumer awareness and resistance to change.

However, the potential reward is worth the trouble; having your brand be synonymous with a good new product is the most valuable kind of brand equity you can ask for—just ask Red Bull or Coca-Cola. Here are some tips to navigate the early days of a nascent category.

1. The packaging must clearly explain your product and its benefits. It’s best to build in a clear window so customers can see the product, but if you can’t due to shelf life issues, photos of the contents will suffice.  

2. Demo demo demo! Having a coordinated demo outreach program will drive consumer trial and education. While expensive, a well-executed demo can pay itself off and result in a sustained lift in sales. Each of your brand ambassadors should be able to clearly communicate all the benefits and uses for the product with enthusiasm and verve.

3. Target a specific channel to focus on building awareness before spreading yourself too thin across all channels. Who will buy your product and where do they shop? The answer to this question will help discern your go-to-market strategy.

4. Being on trend will help you gain placement. Each attribute you carry such as vegan, gluten free, etc, will help your chances of landing in a given store.

5. Promote aggressively at the beginning and regularly thereafter. Do whatever you can to get displays so you can avoid getting lost on the shelf. 

6. Create an arsenal of sales weapons. Shippers, clip strips, and display-ready boxes all increase the likelihood that stores will give you secondary displays.

7. Know where in the store is best for your product. Do you want to position your grab-and-go yogurt snack in the yogurt section or the healthy snack area? What about the produce section? Knowing these things before meeting with buyers is paramount to getting good placement and keeping your unit turns up.

8. Move fast to build distribution. If you have the production capacity and sales force, increase distribution quickly so that second movers will have more difficulty catching up.

9. Beg, borrow, and steal sales data to share with buyers and your team. Whole Foods’ vendor portal gives you great data you can use to show potential customers. It may be best to start small and create a “success story” showing how you supported your stores and built a loyal following in a given region, rather than make a splash everywhere.

10. Keep innovating. Sooner or later someone will copy you. You need to stay a step ahead of them by innovating with new flavors, packaging options, or a new product line.  

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