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Industry Innovation

Launching a New Food Product

A Proven Path from Concept to Launch to Expansion

food product launch analogous to shuttle launch

ith rising food innovation in recent years and emerging trends such as plant-based alternatives appearing left, right and center, new product development remains a crucial step for retailers if they want to keep customers interested and attract new audiences.

Although launching a new food product can be daunting even for established businesses, there are various steps food manufacturers can take to enhance the achievement of any potential creation.  While the stages in food product development included below have been simplified to an extent, they are all vital to consider before officially launching a product.

Idea Generation and Research

The first step in trying to develop new food products is to have as many brainstorming sessions as you possibly can.  The ideas you jot down don’t have to be solid and you don’t have to have any form of plan surrounding them just yet.  Simply, see what concepts come to your mind and highlight any that stand out as ones you’d like to take forward.

Now you’ve got an amazing idea for a new item, the second stage in food product development is to research whether there are similar ideas out there already.  If there are, are they successful?  If so, that’s a good start and you should now investigate how much the comparable products are being sold for or how you could enhance them to make yours even better.  This will also help you to identify potential competitors early in the game.

Equally, you should consider it a requirement to research who your products are actually being aimed at.  Ask yourself questions about your potential customers, who are they?  What will they gain from buying your food item?  Are they interested in a niche?  If so, is the niche big enough to make a substantial profit?  To understand your audience even more, conducting research surveys or focus groups that test your products may be a good idea.

A study from Inez Blackburn of the University of Toronto has found a 70-80% of new products launched in the grocery sector fail.   So, the importance of research before investing time and money into a food product cannot be understated.

Market Testing

Once you’ve completed the research and developed an initial sample of your product, then create a trial run by selling your creation on a small scale directly to customers.  Whether that’s setting up a stall at a local farmer’s market or getting your products into a small independent store in your neighborhood, seeing customer reactions first-hand is a key indicator as to whether a product is going to be a successful.  

Similarly, you could advertise your products online through social media to see what kind of interest is generated and whether an online store may be more beneficial whereby you ship products out to customers directly or through a third-party provider. Mcsource Ideas, a company specializing in channel marketing and strategies asks the following:

Is one way ‘better’ than the other? Sure, if you sell online, direct-to-consumers (DTC) you can sell at full retail price, with little overhead. But how much will you have to invest in Facebook or Instagram ads to sell each item?  If you sell on Amazon, how can you get found, along with the millions of other products there?  Will you need to have Amazon stock and ship your product (Fulfillment by Amazon), or will you ship them yourself?

These are all significant questions that must be assessed in order to progress further through the stages in food product development.

Product Development and Roll-Out  

From the trial run, you can then make decisions based on what worked well and what didn’t.  If customers said they were put off by tacky packaging, change it.  If your audience complained of poor shelf life, find a way to lengthen it.  Ultimately, these changes will pay off in the long run and the earlier you can correct any mistakes you’ve made the better.

Subsequently, creating a potential distribution plan of retailers that you will contact and exact timelines following these changes is the next step of expansion.  You need to consider which outlets you are going to contact and how much profit they will need to make to want to buy your product.  

From here on, you should be ready to negotiate larger deals with more stores through wholesale distribution and national trade shows such as the Sweets and Snacks Expo which has an estimated vendor count of 1050 and around 15,000 visitors.  These shows will help you to market your food product to influential business professionals and retailers.  Similar events take place throughout the year so keep your eyes out for any opportunities.

Finally, even if your product has been a great initial success, you should re-evaluate it at regular intervals to see if anything could be improved and to keep up with the shifting market.  Equally, if new competitors come onto the scene, you may need to develop new marketing strategies.  At the end of the day, developing a food product doesn’t just stop when the product is rolled out, it should be a labor of love that continues.


Overall, the path to launching a new food product won’t be the same for all entrepreneurs.  Some stages in food product development may be beneficial for some and not for others.  Ultimately, aim to do as much research as you can to give your new food product as much of a chance for success as possible.

October 13, 2023