Gut feeling? Go to the fair

Everyone’s a foodie. People smile when a laden plate is put in front of them. Our optimism levels lift when we are well fed and watered. While there are many things people think they can’t live without, food and drink are two body and soul imperatives, making that industry one of the most complex, competitive, fascinating and tempting.

That’s our business, and we are specialists in one of the oldest and most precious of all foods, olive fruit juice as we like to call it, but which most people know as olive oil. There, you have our main USP, how we set ourselves apart on the enormously crowded olive oil shelves.

Precious few olive oil producers and vendors tell you what you need to know – that as a fruit juice with the water removed (centrifugally) freshness is vital to goodness and flavour, so have a look at the bottle in your kitchen – when was the olive juice you buy pressed and bottled? “Best before” tells you nothing, but in 99 per cent of cases there is no information about how old an olive oil is.

Got a food business idea?

I like fresh milk, fresh meat, fresh vegetables, just like you, and I cannot live without fresh extra virgin olive juice. Nor, it seems, can a small but rapidly increasing number of consumers. And as we all love the finest food and most of us have shelves bending under the weight of Delia recipe books and others, our taste-buds are always feeding us new ideas.

Are you dabbling with a food business idea? We had a stand at the Speciality Fine Food Fair in London last year and it was packed with start-up businesses from flavoured chocolates to spicy sauces.

Like the plate in front of you, the width of the customer’s smile depends on quality, appearance/packaging and price, naturally, and, increasingly, ethics (organic, fair-trade etc). If you hit a rich seam then customer loyalty and trust can kick in pretty quickly. It’s true isn’t it? The shelves in stores are too mesmerizing so we tend to stick to brands that are familiar.

Here’s a tip.

Many years ago, when we were starting out, we covered countless miles while visiting humongous food fairs in London and Barcelona, to weigh up the market place, to look for the opening. That, in tandem with our gut feelings (sorry, but we are talking food) and both farming our product and believing in it, set us on the road and showed us how we could be different.

We also met with up there with an old friend who has been a mentor throughout. He is Jeremy Deacon of Market Endeavour, a European a food marketing and innovation agency based in Holland, and he really knows his onions, sausages, ice-cream, soft drinks, cakes…….

The reason for flagging Jeremy is that he has written a very easily digestible and enlightening handbook called How To Launch A New Product that everyone thinking of a food adventure should spin through.

In his own words – “This book is especially intended for those brave souls who are contemplating launching their own product. It takes guts, vision, creativity, persistence, persuasiveness, professionalism and some kind of half-mad obsessiveness. We like those kind of people (are those kind of people).”

Get back to me if you are interested, or talk to Jeremy direct or a good mentor who knows your intended market. Most importantly go the food fairs, check out who is doing what, try and blag a free lunch (not difficult) and plan, plan, plan. Who will come up with the next brand and product that will sit beside the Marmite and olive juice in most kitchen cupboards?

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