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Thought Leadership for Healthy Food & Beverage Brands​

Five Brand Development Pitfalls to Avoid As Better-for-You F&B Products

by Leonard Grape


One day you realize eating processed food makes your body react in a negative way or that you want to serve your kids a protein-packed breakfast, but you cannot find a pancake mix that is not full of unhealthy ingredients.

Despite the number of options available to you, you still are not able to find a snack, beverage, condiment, or treat that you would happily give to your kids or loved ones because you know that plant-based, vegan, organic, and deliciously healthy items would be better for them.

So, you decide enough is enough and say – “I’ll just create a product and solve this myself.”

You go back to your kitchen, create a recipe, and refine it until you are confident that you now have a product that you can potentially turn into a CPG business.

This scenario of starting a better-for-you CPG food or beverage product is common among founders like you. This beams with entrepreneurial spirit and is something I truly admire.

But once the idea has come to life and there is a tangible product, there are many brand development pitfalls that you might encounter as you begin to think about how to bring your brand to market, how to sell and market it, and how you can turn it into a thriving viable business.

While there can be a lot more, I found that there are five common brand development mistakes within the healthy consumer packaged goods industry. If you are in the process of developing your brand, you would want to avoid these.

If you’ve already done some brand creation efforts and you see yourself in any of these pitfalls, it’s never too late to course correct.

Pitfall #1 Not Focusing on your Target Market

It’s your idea. It’s your recipe. It’s your preference. It’s a personal need that you know should be solved through better alternative food or beverage products.

If your approach is mainly driven by your own assumptions or perceptions, it could become a dangerous pitfall because the focus is just within your sphere. As you think of a product that you will release to the market, you need to shift your attention to your prospective customers.

As Allan Dib says, you must create stuff for your people and not people for your stuff.

With this tenet, everything that you do with your healthy F&B product must be geared towards what your market needs and wants.

You should be asking yourself –

Who is my target market? What is their profile? Are they professionals, male or female, millennials or boomers? What are their problems? What are their taste preferences? What are their daily frustrations? Where do they hang out and buy groceries? How do they think about buying food and beverage goods?

Brand development is a process with the audience right at the very core. It’s the foundation that guides you on how you’d position your product, what messaging you’ll be highlighting, how you design your packaging, among others.

Pitfall #2 Not Understanding Your Category Landscape

One of the greatest benefits of being strategic with your brand development is it gives you the power to command a place within the cluttered and bombarded mind of your target customers.

It is what clarifies your positioning as a brand or how you can be perceived as better, more unique, more relatable, so that someone will pick your product when they see it on the shelves.

The next pitfall that you should avoid is not understanding your category landscape.

Are you a plant-based snack? Check what products are available and how they are presented.

Do you offer a functional beverage? Search what your hero ingredient is, so that you can highlight how it will be different from others.

Do most brands on your shelf space only appeal to certain market demographics? Find the untapped segment and communicate with them.

Understanding your category landscape means doing a competitive scan and figuring out what is the gap that you can fill in where you can be the strongest contender.

Pitfall #3 Not Having a Brand Strategy

Another pitfall that you should avoid is not having a firm brand strategy.

It makes sense to put a lot of attention on your product development because no matter what you do with your brand, you cannot win with a losing product.

But, it is a mistake to disregard having a brand strategy.

We’ve touched on the importance of having a customer-focused approach and really pinning down your product positioning. These are just two of the many components that should be included within your brand strategy.

You should also be thinking about what your story is, what values your product have that are aligned with your target customers, what operating principles you would live by, what personality, character, and identity your product would exude.

All these stems from your brand strategy and having an effective and comprehensive brand architecture can give you a better competitive edge so don’t sleep on it.

If you want to get more guidance on this, you can read my article titled 4 Quadrants of Brand Development.

Pitfall #4 Not Leveraging Design as Differentiator

There are many points of differentiation that you can decide to use for your better-for-you product.

Is it your hero ingredient? Is it a product benefit or feature? Is it a narrative or a purpose?

Another differentiator that may seem basic, but many brands don’t take advantage of, is leveraging design to make you look more unique.

Remember we mentioned the importance of understanding your category landscape? Part of it is discovering what design elements can help you pop out.

What is the packaging material that is considered the norm in your product type? Go against it and leverage design and material innovation to become different.

With the warning that I may be oversimplifying this for easier explanation, if every competitive product in your category has light hues, why don’t you use darker ones? If all other brands have the same conventional container, why don’t you reinvent something different?

Your packaging design is one of your most important brand assets as it is something that you would use and feature in practically all your marketing platforms for long periods of time.

Do not waste the chance to use it as a core differentiator tactic for your product.

Pitfall #5 Not Building an Emotional Connection

I’ve once visited and reviewed at least 100 websites of plant-based, organic, functional, vegan, and other healthy food and beverage products.

Guess what 99% of them focused on with their messaging points?

Product ingredients and features.

It was very seldom or even rare that I saw a brand that highlights the customers’ pain point, uses emotionally charged copy to better connect with a customer, or integrate an emotional appeal with the product benefits.

It’s forgetting a basic brand principle that it should be about your customers, not your product.

Don’t get me wrong, as I said, product quality and being healthy are your base warriors but 95% of purchase decisions are driven by emotions.

Take this simple example of shifting your brand copy from “I” to “You”, from first person to second person so that it directly talks to the audience.

First Person – We are a plant-based breakfast cereal brand that has no preservatives, no sugar, and is 100% vegan so we can change the way children eat their morning meals.

Now let’s compare this if I tweak it to –

Second Person – Your children need a breakfast meal that would fill their tummy and boost their energy without you worrying about tons of sugars and preservatives and that’s why we made our plant-based breakfast cereals.

This does a few things on your brand marketing:

✅ Shifts the focus on what matters to your target customer

✅ Highlights the benefit that your product offers to them

✅ Emphasizes that problem that you are solving for your market

✅ Taps on the emotional sphere of your audience

If you just focus on the WHAT of your product and disregard the WHY for your customers, you are missing the opportunity to connect more deeply with your prospect buyers and compete at a more compelling manner.

Do a quick test, audit your website, and count how many first-person statements do you have as compared to second person narratives.

Final Notes

These five brand development pitfalls are meant to provide you with some warning signs, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes and avoid wasting time to strategically build a healthy food or beverage CPG brand.

Are you making any of these mistakes in your brand?

If yes, it’s never too late to come out of the pit and do better.

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