Coffee Shop Innovation Expo logo

25 & 26 SEPT

ExCeL LONDON

How to Kick Start Your Health Food & Drink Start-Up

If you catch yourself day-dreaming of starting your own health food or beverage brand, firstly I’d like to say, “Although the Food & Beverage market is growing, constantly shifting, and hugely influenced by rapidly changing trends… Go for it!” Secondly, I’d like to share a few key experiences I had while launching my own functional juice brand.

Your big idea

When I defined my “what” and identified my “why”, I was really able to understand my brand’s story and pinpoint the passion that I was going to need to drive it forward.

The “what” was simple for me, healthy and convenient juices. And the “why” was really put in my lap by my family. I wanted them to be healthy but didn’t want to have to spend hours shopping or stuck in the kitchen. A lot of great ideas come from solving a problem that you’ve experienced first-hand. What better way is there to understand your market than by being part of it?

Once you’ve got the idea part, it’s important to focus on the “big”. What other markets could possibly benefit from your idea? We’re trying to make snacking or fast-foods nutritious and sustainable. Why can’t my brand be the biggest and most sustainable healthy drinks brand in the world? Etc. 

Once you’ve got answers to a few of these questions around your idea, then just start working backwards from the top. If one step before being a global brand is simply having global distribution, then start looking at how to achieve that. If you keep taking one step back, before you know it, you’ll have a solid plan. 

Your market

To guarantee you understand your market, make sure that it’s big enough to create a profitable business, or to find out whether it really exists, is through testing. As many times, in as many ways and with as many different people as you possibly can.

Then, once you’ve managed to get your product in front of people, it’s important that you’re open to that feedback. If you’re precious, guarded or worse, defensive at the early stages, it’s a lot less likely you’ll make it to the later stage. So be ready to take criticism, adapt and come back stronger.

If you’re able to, it is also worth investing in market research. This is unfortunately something that it really isn’t possible to do effectively without external help but is a cost well worth absorbing. It can also produce invaluable information on your competition (but you should also try to know anyone and anything that could be considered competition like the back of your hand). Learning from past companies’ mistakes and triumphs could greatly affect your business or marketing plan, or even your product.

Your product

In my case, working out how I was going to turn my idea into a product meant getting the right recipes. And taking my juices out of my own kitchen and to the next level meant working with professional nutritionists. Leaning on experts to help balance your ingredient, flavour and nutrition combinations will take your product to ‘developed with experts’ heights.

One of my company’s key USPs is that we flash freeze our juice pulp, preserving almost all of the ingredients’ nutrients. That meant we needed to find somewhere that had the technology to do this to scale. We had three universal requirements; a reliable facility, suited to our needs, that could scale with us. When you’re in the start-up stages, having your own production facility is risky; it causes delays and needs too much investment to be functional, let alone profitable. 

Your brand 

We made every effort to find and create relationships with ambassadors or relevant influencers that really believe in the brand. This meant we could ‘piggy-back’ on their existing reputations. This and treating our loyal customers well, meant we had strong brand values almost created for us from the start.

We also took the time to work closely with designers to finesse our packaging and the look and feel of our brand. Work with professionals, look professional! When working on your brand, consider how your competitors’ products look on the shop shelves, think about how environmentally friendly your packaging choices are, will it survive mail order, etc. Then, as with each impactful decision, test the results and be ready and willing to re-design if necessary. 

Your team

It won’t shock any of you to hear that it isn’t always easy starting a new business. But if you try to go it alone, every step of the way will take longer, be harder and the decisions will be more challenging. If you want to grow quickly, you need to grow you team. Utilise other people’s experience, ideas, knowledge and passion to help bolster your own.

Ideally your team will have a great work ethic, be as enthusiastic about your ideas and the brand as you are, and, if possible, more so! I count myself incredibly lucky to have a team that are committed to my brand, but also embody the brand’s values.

By João Gouveia, Founder of INIU

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