Build The Brand, Build The Food Business Ecosystem

Customer Relationship

For the last Insights newsletter, we talked about how entrepreneurs should make efforts to understand the food entrepreneur ecosystem and whether grants, loans, investments or a combination of capital sources makes sense to fund their growth.

Natural ecosystems and entrepreneurial ecosystems are fundamentally about relationships. While all the entrepreneurial actors above are important, all food businesses need strong relationships with their customers in order to be financially sustainable. And, because brands help tell the business’ story in a concise, relatable way for consumers, brands help build relationships between consumers and the food business.

This relationship to the customer and understanding where the customer is at is sometimes overlooked. For example, recently we have noticed heightened interest to support regenerative farming practices. Perennials like currants and aronia berries often top the list of nutritious crops that regenerative farming advocates say could provide a win-win-win for farmers, consumers and the planet. Some then point to the lack of infrastructure for processing these crops as one of the biggest barriers to their taking off. However, even if the infrastructure was there, someone needs to build a brand that resonates with consumers’ perceived needs and solves their problems. Similar to the philosophy of regenerative agriculture, all aspects of the ecosystem need to be considered to properly respond.

As Cullen Gilchrist talks about on our podcast this week, Union Kitchen is helping lower the barrier to success for growing food brands by getting their feet wet in Union Kitchen’s ecosystem, including infrastructure like its shared-use kitchens, distribution and retail outlets. All of these things (as well as their technical assistance) lower the barriers for new food businesses to be successful, but they don’t replace the hard work of building relationships with customers. And, as Cullen points out, one of the best things their retail stores give their member businesses is actionable data about how their products are resonating with real customers in a real environment. And, Cullen has found that the financial community is more willing to provide capital to their member businesses because their ecosystem has allowed their members to prove that their products have traction in the marketplace with real consumers.

Good brand building is built on an understanding of your target customer and what problems you are solving for them. While it is not the only thing that is needed to build a successful business, those consumer relationships are the lifeblood of all food businesses. Brand building takes hard work. However, once that work is done, food businesses often find that the other actors in the ecosystem want to build better business relationships with them because they built those key relationships with customers to sustain their business. And, with customers in the driver’s seat, audacious goals like regenerating the planet become more possible.

And now, our roundup of the best food and beverage finance news, events and resources from around the web…

Food and Beverage Business Models

Business Model Insights

Raising Capital

Raising Capital

Grocery Store Shopping

CPG/National Brands

Grocery Store Produce Section

Market Trends

 Regenerative Agriculture

Farming and AgTech

Mergers and Acquisitions



Industry Events