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Michael Adams Green Mountain Mustard and Gredio

Michael Adams, Owner
Green Mountain Mustard & Gredio

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Test Market Your Food Product

5 Tips to Test Market Your Food Product

I got an email a few days ago from an avid reader of this blog. She asked about the best ways to test market her new food products.  My answer is below — thanks for sending in the question, Haley!


Have you been playing around in your home kitchen, trying to come up with the next best chocolate chip cookie? Or maybe, you’ve got the “secret sauce”.

Creating a food product is one thing. But, making a product consumers buy over and over again is tough.

That’s why test marketing your new food idea is the way to go.

Test marketing gives you an idea of who would buy your product, for how much money, and if they would change anything about it.

Of course, when you’re testing something out, a million things could go wrong. You could get a false sense of hope, you could find out that, while delicious, people won’t buy your product. Or, the worst – no one’s a fan. (Hard to believe with food products, I know, but it’s happened to me before).

So how do you get the biggest bang for your buck from your test marketing efforts?

It’s not easy. You’ll likely be test marketing for several months before you pull the trigger. But don’t worry! Once you get an idea for what your customers like, you’ll be able to tell what products are going to be a success.

For now, let’s get your first test marketing under way. Here’s a couple tips:

5 tips to help you test market your food product:

1. Don’t let family and friends give you feedback

Family members are supposed to be honest, right? Not exactly. When I was test marketing my energy bars and mustard, family members often sugar-coated their feedback. They weren’t upfront with me. Same with friends – they want to be supportive which means they tell you what you want to hear. This ultimately means you don’t get the best feedback.

To find people who aren’t friends and family, ask co-workers at work, post an ad on Craigslist looking for focus group participants, or give your family a couple test products and tell them to bring it to work. Since they’re co-workers don’t know you, they’ll be honest.

2. Perfect one product

Test marketing a line of 10 products is overwhelming. It creates decision paralysis for your test group. Plus, it can alter the taste of products if you have them taste multiple varieties. By focusing on one flavor, you’re able to perfect that recipe. Then, when you’re successful with one, use your test group to expand your product line.

3. Retailers are not your customers

The first place many companies just starting out go for research is their local grocery store. And that’s not a good idea. Sure, it’s awesome to get the buyer’s attention, but retailers aren’t your customer. The retailer’s customers are the ones  buying your product. By staying focused on consumers, you’ll get the feedback you need to found a fantastic food company.

4. Prepare for criticism

Let’s face it – not everyone is going to LOVE your food product. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I was told one of my test mustard flavors “sucked”. I kid you not. While 8 out of 10 customers are likely to think your product is worth buying, it’s the other 20% you should pay attention to. Why don’t they like it? What can you do better? Taking this criticism and feedback is important. It helps you make a product 100% of people enjoy.

5. Craft a 30-second pitch

“Try this and tell me what you think” is probably one the worst ways to get a customer to try your product. It’s bland, boring, and not engaging. Work on a short pitch about your product. What makes it different? Do you have unique ingredients? This pitch is not only useful for consumers, but you’ll need it when it comes to selling your product to retailers.

Test marketing is necessary to start a food business and produce a product consumers are going to fall in love with. Just making salsa, brownies, or spice blends because you like to cook isn’t a great reason to start your food business. Why?

It reminds me of a quote I heard from one of my marketing professors in college:

“Make what people will buy – not what you want to sell”

That quote is spot on. If customers like chunks in their salsa, make it chunky. If customers only want to buy your triple chocolate fudge sauce, then discontinue the other flavors. Focus on what your customers are telling you, respond in a timely manner, and watch your food business take off.

Do you have any test marketing tips for people who want to launch their food business? Let me know in the comments.

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24 Comments on this post

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 14, 2013 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Jacquelyn!

  1. AUTHORMike Brown

    on July 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    Thank you for all your helpful tips. It will help me moving forward.

    -Mike

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 14, 2013 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome, Mike! Let me know if I can be of further help!

  2. AUTHORKarla

    on July 19, 2013 at 7:54 am - Reply

    Hi Michael….this was informative, and I can’t wait to receive more helpful tips.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 21, 2013 at 3:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Karla! So happy you found it helpful. Anything specific you’re looking to learn?

  3. AUTHORJoy Roxborough

    on September 17, 2013 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    very insightful. thanks you. I look forward to receiving your tip emails.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on September 17, 2013 at 8:24 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Joy! I’ve got an email going out tonight actually!

  4. AUTHORCynthia

    on October 31, 2013 at 10:08 pm - Reply

    Great information! I am just at the starting gate…….Thank you!

    • AUTHORmichael

      on October 31, 2013 at 10:16 pm - Reply

      Hi Cynthia — you’re welcome! Glad I could help out. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Michael

  5. AUTHORkunal

    on March 21, 2014 at 5:11 am - Reply

    Michael

    Thanks for these great tips. Can’t come at a better time when I am trying to introduce Garlic Bread in my city.

  6. AUTHORsteven

    on June 20, 2014 at 1:14 am - Reply

    Your #4 includes “make a product 100% of people enjoy.” In the specialty, small volume, craft types of foods with a lot of category competition/subtitutes, i would tend to think that you may have more success with creating someone 20% of people LOVE — certainly i would think 80% love is better than 100% like (assuming compromises have to be made to get more in the like column…).
    Oh, I Love your blog BTW.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on June 20, 2014 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      Hi Steven,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, 100% may be out there, but I believe it’s important for product validation. We don’t launch a new flavor if 20% of tasters like it. That’s not enough for us. We need wider-reaching demand. And yes — 80% love is better than 100% like 🙂

  7. AUTHORjoshua

    on October 30, 2014 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    I have been working on a product for a few years and wanted to develop numerous flavors but now I see I should focus on one maybe two than move forward. Thank you so much.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on October 31, 2014 at 10:53 am - Reply

      Hey Joshua,

      You’re welcome! And yes — prove a couple flavors, test the others, and only add what sells well. I’ve learned that the hard way — and now we’re up to 11 flavors of mustard, when it probably should be our top 4 best sellers.

  8. AUTHORJules

    on August 13, 2015 at 11:00 pm - Reply

    How many people would you normally test a product on?

    • AUTHORmichael

      on August 13, 2015 at 11:19 pm - Reply

      Hi Jules – I like to get 20-30 for an initial test, then as I refine the recipe, I test it at the farmer’s market on about 100 people over 2 weeks. Hope that helps! Thanks for reading!

      Michael

  9. AUTHORBeth

    on January 2, 2016 at 2:02 am - Reply

    This was a great article right up until I read this: “It helps you make a product 100% of people enjoy.” There is NO food out there, that 100% of the population enjoys. Period. This is a very unrealistic goal to put in anyone’s head. Someone who is a perfectionist, would read this and drive themselves to an unrealistic goal and never realize it… possibly giving up on their dream. Why do you say 80% isn’t good? That’s on you. I’d settle (quite happily I might add) if 80% of people said they loved my product. Keep it real, is all I’m saying. When you keep it real, then it’s realistic for them.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on January 2, 2016 at 12:19 pm - Reply

      Hi Beth — thanks for reading. You make a valid point. Not everyone is going to like your product, but this is often how many food entrepreneurs get their start a la “everyone who has tried it loves it!” It gives owners more confidence that they may be able to give their food product a go. I appreciate your comments and happy new year!

  10. AUTHORBita Fallah

    on September 3, 2016 at 11:14 pm - Reply

    Thank you very much for these useful tips! I only just subscribed to your mailing list and very much looking forward to learn more. Best wishes. Bita

    • AUTHORmichael

      on September 6, 2016 at 11:39 am - Reply

      Hi Bita! I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog and thanks for signing up for my future emails. Best of luck with your food business! Your Persian food looks amazing! — Michael

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