Got a Unique Product? Factor Education into Budget and Bandwidth

Some of the most innovative food products are a tough sell for consumers. It’s not that these items aren’t amazing. In fact, they may be super healthy and downright delicious. No, the real issue is often that consumers don’t fully understand the product, its purpose or its benefits—or their deeply ingrained beliefs and assumptions prevent them from seeing its true value.

Of course, these hurdles can be overcome, as several wildly successful food brands have proven. But doing so requires a significant investment in retailer and consumer education, which means time, money and peoplepower. Whether it’s in-store demos, eye-catching signage, special packaging or a social media campaign, entrepreneurs must budget for these efforts—both monetarily and in human capital—when bringing an out-of-the-box product to market.

Sometimes these investments pay off big-time and the company ends up with a winning consumer product. Other times, though, brands determine it’s just not worth it and decide to explore other avenues and channels instead.

Take insect protein bar company Chapul, for example, which tried for years to sell consumers on the health and environmental benefits of powdered crickets. Convincing people to get over the ick factor and try their bars required massive education efforts, and after about seven years on the market, Chapul opted to exit the CPG game. But the founders weren’t done with insects just yet—they switched their focus to insect farming ventures in Asia, where consuming creepy-crawlies is much more accepted.

Our most recent podcast guests, Dale and Pam Johnson of Century Sun Oil in Pulaski, Wisconsin, have also encountered the education obstacle in marketing their high-oleic organic sunflower oil to consumers. While most sunflower oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which get a bad rap, Century Sun’s product is richer in heart-healthy omega-9s. But since the health benefits of omega-9s aren’t well known, garnering major sales at retail would require education, and the Johnsons have determined it’s more cost effective to focus on their bulk business. They still sell at retail, but see bulk as the bigger growth opportunity.

This is not to say that investing more in consumer education wouldn’t be worth it for another company—it all depends on each entrepreneur’s interests and business goals. The point is that for unconventional food products to find success at retail or even direct to consumer, some level of education is required. Therefore, companies opting to go this route should work those investments into their business plans and budgets.

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

Consultant With TabletBusiness Model Insights

Raising CapitalRaising Capital

National Wholesale BrandsCPG/National Brands

Grocery Store Produce Section Market Trends

Regenerative AgricultureFarming and AgTech

Mergers And AcquisitionsDeals/M&A

EventsIndustry Events