Problem solver: Plenty of food for thought to get new products on shelves
Q: I have a background in food production. I am planning to start making my own products and selling to supermarkets. Do you have any pointers for categories where you think a new food product has the best chance of success?
A: There are now recognised categories in the food retail sector which are quite crowded and producers find it difficult to make a living from them.
These categories have typically become crowded because the product can usually be manufactured at home and therefore, once you have some good food skills it is relatively easy to start a business in this area. Jams, chutneys, ice cream, etc would all be examples of this.
I'm not saying don't make any of these products. Be clear of your objectives when starting your business.
If you have another source of income and would like this product to supplement your earnings by selling product at local level, then any of these categories are fine to get in to.
If, however, your objective is for the business to pay a salary, then you might be better to look at other categories also.
Bord Bia have fantastic research facilities which will highlight global trends and new product ideas.
They have just opened their Thinking House, which is one of the world's most advance insight facilities. Do get in touch with them to stimulate some new ideas.
Certainly, anywhere in the area of health seems to be of interest and a very large number of products being launched are focused on this topic.
Regardless of what product you chose, it will be very important that you conduct a gap analysis.
Go out to every single supermarket, see what the competitor products are and how they are priced and justify where the gap exists.
Don't forget to get some feedback from store owners and managers also, as they usually have a good idea about where opportunities exist. I wish you well with the project.
Q: I run a business-development group in the town where I live. Despite an obvious need to boost the area, and the benefits that would follow for all businesses, we are really struggling to get people to turn up at monthly meetings. Can you give us any advice?
A: I applaud you for the work you are doing. Sometimes, this can be a thankless role with lots of people complaining, and few willing to take action.
The reality is, that people do not have the time to commit to attending regular meetings.
Between work and home life, most business people get very little time to sit down.
In my opinion, monthly meetings are probably too frequent and you might be better off to step the frequency back and work harder at having a fuller attendance at these meetings.
What will work well in some regions is whereby subgroups are given projects to go off and work on and report back to the full group at the next session.
The subgroup is empowered to go off and make any decisions they need to.
Several times I have also been asked to visit different towns, to talk to different retailers and businesses to give them a different perspective.
This would take the form of a slot at the end of their regular meeting and they have found that by bringing in speakers it gives people an added reason to turn up.
Keep going with your initiative and just change the model slightly.