Where do you get inspiration for new food products to add to your brand? OR where did your original idea come from when you started your food business?
When my dad started our family food business 65 years ago, it was enough to take a recipe from my grandmother and transform it into a $30 Million brand. Today many food entrepreneurs start with a recipe from their family, serve it to friends with rave reviews and then someone says "you should sell this"! And that is where the hobby ends and the foodpreneur journey begins.
Crowdsourcing Product Ideas for a Food Businesses
OK so how do you crowdsource for product ideas as a small specialty food business. Well there are the usual social listening strategies on Twitter, Facebook and using Google Adwords and Trends… all of which can give you a sense for what people are talking about.
Crowdsourcing Capital for a Food Businesses
Crowdfunding is part of crowdsourcing and seeks startup or growth capital from "the crowd" and Circleup Funding is an example of a crowdfunder with numerous brands that have successfully raised capital. It is still in it's infancy stage but specialty food brands like Melt Organics raised $1 million via the crowd .
Following Mommy Blogs as a Crowdsourcing Channel
I stumbled upon a Mommy Blog, the Budget Gourmet Mom… I think the link was in a LinkedIn post somewhere and the post had Angry Birds Cookies in it so I clicked through. The post was from Krista who runs the site and it was a recipe for Angry Birds cookies. I am not a baker but thought… if you are a food entrepreneur with a bakery, check out the comments and see people really think this is a cool idea for kids. And moms are always looking for great products for their kids.
So Why Do You Need to Know This?
Why should you consider crowdsourcing for product ideas? Well… if you follow numerous mommy blogs, you will get an early insight into trends that can be converted to new products. It is not foolproof but the comments from the crowd will give you sentiment about the food recipe and in turn that gives you're a higher probability of a product that can be successful. Seeing these ideas on Mommy blogs… you can go further to see if there are brands selling similar products or not.
Problems Starting a Food Business
A major problem I deal with many of my clients is coming up with a food idea that was not researched well enough to determine if there is a real consumer need for that product.
An idea needs to fill a need or it is JUST a great idea with little to no revenue potential. Momma Lenas came to me for help in starting their specialty food business which is launching with eggnog pound cake. With a small amount of research I concluded that there were no commercial brands making eggnog pound cake AND the important point here… searching on Social Media sites and recipe sites showed a great deal of interest in eggnog pound cake recipes. So I can comfortably say that the Idea fills an Unmet Need and points to an economically viable company… at least initially.
So you say "the big brands have oodles of money for consumer research and can great ideas and make tones of bucks". Yes BUT the big guys are more frequently using Crowdsourcing for new product research and figuring out how to launch a new product successfully. WalmartLabs most recent venture, Goodies.co is seeking to crowdsource for new products through a social commerce gift box delivery site. The site features artisan, local and specialty foods that go into the sample gift packs and get sent out to tens of thousands of customers. Customers post reviews on the site and these help determine if the products can go into Walmart.com or Walmart stores.
Here are Examples of Crowdsourcing and Resources
PB Works Crowdsourcing Wiki has a many websites but I only found 2 relevant to consumer brands crowdsourcing for ideas so search around and you can probably find a better crowdsourcing aggregator.
Brand Sponsored Crowdsourcing Websites
My Starbucks Ideas is a very social site, no wonder since Starbucks is known for positioning themselves as the "Third Place"
P&G Vocal Point Food & Cooking is not as well put together as My Strabucks Ideas and it is social in so far as members post a submission, like this one ofCupcakes which was a sub-thread off of "What sweet would you enjoy even more if it were good for you?"
The Kraft Collaboration Kitchen isn't an open site that you can see what other people are submitting to Kraft. However they have a Kraft MIO Flavor Liquid Case Study that is fairly vague but illustrates they did collaborate to get Mio developed and launched.