When launching or scaling a food business, most entrepreneurs think about branding—among the million other things bouncing around in their heads. Between product development, ingredients, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, marketing and website design—and without much if any help on board at the beginning—branding can easily slip down the priority list. Plus, if your sister designs a snazzy logo on Canva and your kid manages the company’s Instagram, that’s branding, right?
Kind of, but not quite. Logos and social media posts are important embodiments of a brand, but there’s a whole lot more to it than that. For food companies to grab attention in a crowded marketplace, attract purchases, create raving fans and get on a solid growth path, they need a comprehensive brand strategy.
OK, that sounds nice, but what does brand strategy actually mean? Brand strategist Katie Mleziva, founder of Real Food Brands, puts it simply: “It’s your guide and your glue that connects the dots between everything you do to build a strong food brand that stands out.”
If that seems like a pretty big deal, something that entrepreneurs should start on right away, you are exactly right. Branding isn’t just a single standalone aspect of a food business—it’s all-encompassing, touching every other aspect of the business, from marketing to manufacturing to messaging. That’s why FFI always recommends dialing in a clear, confident and consistent brand strategy as early as possible.
Otherwise, brands risk coming off as incohesive, confused and (gasp!) a commodity. Consumers don’t know who they are, why they are special, how their products benefit them or why they should purchase their products instead of another brand’s—especially if the competition doesn’t cost as much. Unless they feel some kind of emotional tug, most shoppers won’t take a chance on “just another food brand.”
And sure, there are some food companies whose stellar products let them slide without a strategy for a while. But to ensure sustained success, they’d be smart to go back, dig deep and devise one. It’s never too late!
To craft a brand strategy, there are no hard-and-fast rules. But Katie’s Brand Strategy Streamlined Approach has helped dozens of food entrepreneurs to synthesize their ideas, center their business around a solid brand strategy and become successful. She walked through her approach with Tera on the latest Edible-Alpha® podcast, and she’ll coach participating entrepreneurs through it during our Building a Brand that Stands Out training course coming up on May 19.
But in a nutshell, Katie’s approach revolves around three main steps: defining, aligning and activating a brand strategy. Defining (or refining) involves identifying brand pillars, market differentiation points and benefits to consumers. Aligning means getting the entire team on board and all realms on the business in sync with the strategy. Activating means executing the brand strategy throughout the consumer lifecycle, in accordance with the brand’s business goals.
When all these pieces come together, as they will when a solid blueprint has been set, brands can create magic in the marketplace. Consumers will take notice, purchase, purchase again and hopefully tell their friends and family all about it so they purchase too.
A former brand manager for big food companies, Katie Mleziva now shares the secrets to defining, aligning and activating solid a brand strategy with startup and scaling natural food companies. Joining Tera on the podcast, the Real Food Brands founder explains the importance of building a strong brand, versus just offering great products, and outlines the streamlined approach she coaches. This episode is packed with actionable advice, so tune in!
And now, our roundup of the best food and beverage finance news, events and resources from around the web…
Business Model Insights
- How marketers can turn societal upheaval into better branding (Nutrition Business Journal) It’s clear that 2020 was a historic year for brands to identify who they are to their consumers and take a stand. Here are five lessons marketers and brand executives are taking into 2021.
- Where next for dairy milk? Value-added products drive future of the category, says DMI (FoodNavigator-USA)
- Balance consumer demand for innovation & authenticity by providing cultural context for new offerings (FoodNavigator-USA)
- Brands need to put pandemic year gains in perspective when seeking funding (Nutrition Business Journal)
Find out why brands with big online sales might be coming out of the pandemic with unrealistic expectations.
- 4 investor questions founders should be prepared to answer (New Hope Network)
- Startups too small for traditional banks, VCs could access financing from restructured eCapital Corp (FoodNavigator-USA)
- Why some food and drink companies lost sales during the COVID-19 pandemic (Food Dive)
As consumers changed, they started looking at what they ate with a more critical eye, considering their health, well-being and wallets—and bringing declines in some categories.
- ‘In a tumultuous 2020, one thing stayed the same…’ Record number of class action suits filed vs food and beverage brands, says Perkins Coie (FoodNavigator-USA)
- Upcycled Certified Mark Debuts (Progressive Grocer)
- Not all food categories have post-pandemic staying power, report reveals (Food Dive)
New COVID-19 Buyer Habit Index shows which segments showed the most stickiness by comparing repeat purchase behavior of new category buyers during the panic-buying peak in March and April 2020 to new buyers in spring 2019.
- Get ready for higher grocery bills for the rest of the year (NBC News)
- Beef and pork consumption rises as consumers go with what they know (The Food Institute)
Farming and AgTech
- Why This Family Became America’s First Certified Regenerative Dairy Farm (Forbes)
California-based Alexandre Family Farm aims to prove that regenerative organic can be done at scale—and with dairy, as “cows are not the cause of climate change.”
- Farming Through the Climate Emergency (Civil Eats)
- ‘Megadrought’ in American West May Trigger First-Ever Water Shortage Declaration (Modern Farmer)
- New Merger Creates GrassRoots Carbon for Soil Carbon Storage Credits (Regenerative Food Systems Investment Forum)
Born from the merger of Soil Value Exchange and PastureMap, the new company will pay landowners for capturing and storing carbon in their healthy soils.
- Post Holdings and Anheuser Busch team up to develop ‘climate-friendly’ snacks (FoodNavigator-USA)
- Campbell Soup to sell Plum Organics to Sun-Maid for undisclosed amount (Food Dive)
- Edible-Alpha® Consultant Huddle: 5/3 (Read 4/5 Huddle notes here)
- Grains Week: 5/3–5/7
- Food Edge Online: 5/4–5/6
- Hirshberg Entrepreneurship Institute: 5/5–5/7
- FFI Financial Management Boot Camp for Meat Processors Part 1: 5/6–5/7
- Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series: 5/6–5/27
- Food Safety Summit: 5/11–5/13
- Building a Brand that Stands Out: 5/19–5/21
- Natural Products Expo West Virtual Week: 5/24–5/27
- Food as Medicine Summit: 5/25–5/26
- UNFI Natural Holiday Show: 6/1–6/3
- KeHE Holiday Show: 6/8–6/10
- Digital Food & Beverage Connect: 6/15–6/16
- FFI-FaBcap Accelerator Pitch Event: 6/16
- FFI Financial Management Boot Camp for Meat Processors: Part 2: 6/17–6/18