Growing your packaged food brand beyond its startup success

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After all the hard work and sleepless nights of the early years, your brand is off and running. Consumers love what you offer, you’re stocked in various places and (hopefully) you’re making a profit!

Often, up to this stage, you’ve managed pretty much all the business and brand development yourself. In fact, you probably ‘are’ the brand. But, as you grow, things become more challenging.

While 91% of startups survive the first year, by year three that figure drops to 59% and drops further, to just 43% survival rate by year five. (ONS)

How can you best ensure your brand flourishes as you continue to grow?

Ensure you have a clear brand ambition

What size/scale of brand do you want to build? Ensuring you’re clear on your ambitions at this stage will help in achieving your goals.

Do you want to build a business of a scale that it will need additional funding to grow? If so, consider your funding options from VCs, angel investors or crowd funding.

If you plan to build the business organically by reinvesting profits, it will typically grow slower, but can be more sustainable and you’ve not given away any equity.

Regardless of the scale of your ambition, use your strategic plan to guide you as you grow. Within your plan, focus on Consumers, Customers and Connections.

Consumers – You’re going to need more of them

Sure, you can get existing consumers to buy more of your stuff by adding to your range or get them to pay more for it by making it more premium. But the bottom line is, you’ll need more consumers buying into your brand if you want to grow.

Three top tips;

  1. Don’t believe you need to appeal to everyone to grow. This can often do your brand more damage than good, as you’ll lose your distinctiveness and become bland.
  2. Instead, tighten your focus on those consumers who love what you do and check that there are enough potential other ‘lovers’ to meet your growth ambition.
  3. Don’t stretch your brand thin with line extension after line extension. They generally add little genuine incremental sales, but instead tend to dilute your range. The two exceptions are – where there’s a genuine consumer need for a new product offering or when rotating flavours or improving existing recipes helps keep your brand fresh by adding new interest for consumers. Just don’t overdo it!

Customers – You’ll need more of them (but bear in mind the tips above)

Building the ‘right’ customer base is way more important than stretching yourself too thin.

Simply put, while it may be nice to be listed in Tesco, if that’s not where your consumers typically shop, you’ll;

  1. Have lower sales performance than you (and Tesco) would like…which leads to more price promotions and potential delists.
  2. Send the wrong message to potential consumers about who your brand is for.
  3. Oh, and don’t forget big retailers don’t tend to understand the importance of cash flow to growing businesses!


You’ve communicated your brand well to have got through the startup stage. Now, as you grow, you need to get even smarter about how you communicate with your consumers.

My top two tips;

  1. Focus on developing your marketing strategy first; then decide the tactics needed to achieve the objectives you’ve set.
  2. Use the ACT, Reflect, Adapt Play Cycle (borrowed from John Williams) to develop and refine marketing activities that give the best results over time.