Q. I am a qualified chef but no longer working. I am thinking of producing a new product to sell through supermarkets, etc, and wondered if you had any advice on consumer trends.
Feargal replies: Bord Bia have a fantastic array of consumer research and trend information on their website and I would encourage any early stage food business to study this. Of all of the trends which are currently showing, health is definitely the most pronounced. Whether your product is free from… low in…. etc. this seems to be an area where the consumer is responding quickly to product offers. The focus of many health officials and some producers is making tasty products without the sugar levels of the past.
Whatever product you decide to produce, it must taste really great. I remember many decades ago when we were trying to make a decision on the launch of the Superquinn sausage and whether it should be low fat or one with a high pork content which was great on taste. We decided on the latter and the rest is history! You are doing the correct thing by focusing on the trends but to develop a long term sustainable product you must make sure that it will be remembered for its eating characteristics too.
Q Have you any tips for growing the sales in my business?
Feargal: Most business owners look at growing the sales in a rather conventional way. They rush out and spend money recruiting new customers who have never been into the business before, which is always a difficult task. Imagine a bath tub full of water. The water represents your customers, your bath has some leaks representing customers who don't come to you as often or who are spending less. The tap of running water represents a heavy marketing spend, price promotions and other investments to woo new customers.The principle suggests that if you spend more time working with existing customers (patch up some of the leaking holes) and encourage some of them to shop with you more often and increase their spend, then you would grow sales at a far quicker rate.
It makes sense as these customers know you and trust you and likely to be more responsive to any initiatives that you run. You are probably going to have contact details for many existing customers so that is another reason to focus on them.
It would be naïve to say not to bother attracting new customers, but I'd say make sure you don't miss out on the big opportunity that lies within your existing consumer base.
Do you have problems with your small business? Email Feargal at firstname.lastname@example.org