Abigail Steinberg on Seven Questions to Answer Before Launching Your Natural Food Product

Author of Recipe for Success, Abigail SteinbergNavigating the incessantly changing waters of the highly competitive natural foods retail world can be dangerous. Some of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make in this industry are mistakes from which they can’t recover. Fortunately, you don’t have to make these mistakes to learn. Study the blunders of the fallen products before you by asking yourself these seven questions.

  1. Who is my target market?

Answer this question quickly because it will guide everything you do—and how much buyers, distributors, and retailers trust that you have a product that will sell.

  1. How innovative does my product need to be?

Replicating a competitor’s efforts is not a viable path. Temptation may be strong to lean in the direction of duplication, but the market needs innovative and new products. On the other hand, does a market exist for your banana-cilantro lamb freezer meal? Think about it.

  1. What sets my product apart from the competition?

So you will be up against similar products. What sets you apart from your direct competitors? Perhaps it’s the taste, quality, safety, ingredients, or environmental impact. If you’re not standing out, it’s time to rethink strategy. If you do have a truly special feature, highlight it!

  1. Does my product have a look too similar to the competition?

This can and does happen. On the shelf, when two products look alike, one must go. Make your packaging unique.

  1. What’s the best price point for my category?

You must know your competition’s price points. If you price your product aggressively high, it may be an instant sales killer—while a low price point may make potential customers suspicious about your quality.

  1. Is my category growing or shrinking?

You wouldn’t want to arrive late to a party only to discover the fun is over. Categories expand and contract; this ebb and flow is commonplace. Make sure your category is not oversaturated and about to contract. The less saturated the category, the more likely you can score shelf space.

  1. Is my product in demand?

You’re invested in your product, of course. You likely have a strong emotional commitment to it—you made this! Yet you still need a clear head about how much everyone else wants your product. Ask if there is a real demand. Retail buyers are already inundated with thousands of new and established products. Is there room for one more? Or better yet, are you the new category?

The natural foods industry can change the way we eat, clean, and consume for the better. You want to be part of that—so take the right steps for success!


ABIGAIL STEINBERG is the author of RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: An Insider’s Guide to Bringing Your Natural Food to Market (AMACOM November 2015). She is a senior executive in the natural foods industry, and made her name as an instrumental part of the rise of natural soda company Zevia.


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