Here is a food entrepreneur interview with the found of Mom Made Foods, Heather Stouffer in the journey from Kitchen to Cash in the retail food business. They make Healthy meals for kids and as a parent I know the challenge in coming up with tasty meal ideas for kids. So I wanted to know about the success in their new product launch since the vast majority of new food products fail in the first 24 months. This one is a winner! We covered topics that are most interesting to budding food entrepreneurs.
Heathers Light Bulb Moment
New Product Development
New Product Launch
The Journey from Kitchen
Social Media to Enhance Food Demos
So Tell Us About Your Light Bulb Moment Starting Mom Made Meals?
My light bulb moment happened when I was shopping for my family and couldn't find prepared foods that I felt good enough about to serve my own kids! Mom Made Foods launched Memorial Day weekend 2006 at the Del Ray Farmer's Market in Alexandria, VA. From there we were approved for the Mid-Atlantic region of Whole Foods, and were on store shelves in January of 2007.
Products and Brief Descriptions
Mom Made makes healthy meals for kids, taking kid favorites and makes them a lot healthier. We offer three product lines. Mom Made MEALS are single-serve bowls and available in Cheesy Mac, Fiesta Rice, and Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs; Mom Made MUNCHIES are handheld stuffed pastry-style pockets and available in Cheese Pizza, Bean Burrito, Turkey Sausage, Chicken, and Apple Pie varieties; and Mom Made BITES are meal starters sized for smaller eaters, available in Turkey Meatballs.
What was your Inspiration for Starting Your Business?
My family has always appreciated good, fresh and healthy food and healthy. I grew up cooking and wanted to pass on that to my own kids. But as a full-time working mom, I realized that I needed to rely on prepared foods sometimes, and I was dismayed at the lack of variety and kid-friendly offerings that were also healthy and delicious!
New Product Development - Getting Out of the Kitchen
What was the initial motivator that got the product out of the test facility, Kitchen or otherwise?
Dinner time at our house is the most cherished time of day to come together as a family to share a meal. My day-to-day cooking is comprised of easy, healthy, fresh meals using all-American and ethnic recipes. But I'm also a working mom and very often found myself in a pinch for an out-the-box solution for my family. When I researched the options, I could only find foods with sodium laden non-organic ingredient lists a mile long.
My brother is a professional chef and he helped me in the early days decide on the initial four recipes that we would take from my kitchen to a larger scale. I then rented a kitchen from a catering company during their off hours and had it USDA-organic certified. My small crew and I would come in a couple afternoons and evenings every week to make and freeze our foods. We initially sold them at a local farmer's market to test the market. Needless to say the market response was terrific and Mom Made was in business!
New Product Launch - Getting on the Shelf
What Strategies and Tactics worked in achieving getting on the shelf? Where there mistakes you learned from that strengthened your Retail Trade shelf strategy?
We launched Memorial Day weekend 2006 and ran a soft new product launch at a local farmer's market thru the summer months. Every Saturday morning, I was able to talk to my customers… the customer feedback served to be invaluable. We launched into our very first store, a local natural food store. We were put on the bottom shelf of their freezer and quickly learned that placement and positioning in the stores was critical. By January 2007, we were in 40 stores throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
Some lessons learned were to start and keep the conversation going with our customers, for us this is both the consumer and the retail buyers. And with packaging, the stability of the cartons for the first product line was not as strong as it should have been to survive distribution and retail handling. We had to redesign the packaging after the first year to increase stability.
Getting on to the Consumers Plate
What Strategies and Tactics worked in getting initial customer trial? Where there mistakes you learned from that strengthened your consumer trial strategy?
Once we were on store shelves, we did in-store sampling events every week which were also a great opportunity to speak to our customers. We also supported our food demos with consumer marketing via social media to help spread the word, and proactively reached out to media. Our biggest lesson learned was to keep the sampling events as simple as possible. "Simple" is difficult when you're dealing with a frozen product that needs to be kept cold in transit and then warmed. We're still learning on this with every event!
How did you make your Food Business Scalable?
For example, what are the replicable processes or plans that allowed your business to get to your current size and are they the same or different going forward?
Our business plan was always to grow to be a leading national brand. From facility selection, packaging for optimization, recipe development, etc, I make decisions to help us scale. In the beginning, when we only had one account and did all the production ourselves in the catering kitchen, we quickly hit capacity and our labor costs were astronomical in the initial launch. When pitching the retail buyer we needed to prove our scalability so that we could not only fulfill our first big order but the ever-growing orders as the business continues to grow.
Where are Mom Made Products Currently Distributed?
Whole Foods, Hannaford, SweetBay, Shaws and our (Mom Made online store )
Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org ; 703-740-9241