Turns out financing and innovation are key ingredients for emerging food brands
The past several months have introduced me and my firm NewPoint to people and emerging food brands groups that are as exciting as the food industry has been disruptive. Jim Slama and his team at FamilyFarmed are a big part of that. They are responsible for the FamilyFarmed Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference, and I am truly honored to have been invited to hold a breakout session on the Retail Food Buyer’s Perspective.
The FamilyFarmed team invited me to conduct a breakout session based on the Retail Food Buyer’s Roundtable held at our 2017 NewPoint Emerging Food Brands Forum. A short recap: We invited all 85 emerging food brands attending our conference to submit 2 questions they’d like to ask a retail food buyer. We vetted, edited, as well as combined the questions and then asked our panel of 6 retail food buyers the questions during a lunch-n-learn session. My talk covered the top 5 questions and added this crucial information: Practices Retail Food Buyers are Looking for in your Pitch Meeting.
Finance, Innovation…and Story
I was introduced to a new side of the emerging food brands industry – one that we are hoping to bring to our 2nd Annual Emerging Brands Conference this fall on Oct 2nd: financing growth.
The programing that had the most impact on me had to be the panel on the topic “Good Food is a Good Deal: Investor Insights” – where Investors shared insights on why Good Food is good for the planet, good for people, and good for business. This panel was moderated by FamilyFarmed board member Marianne Markowitz and included:
- Lauren Rosenthal, Co-Founder and Executive Committee Member, SLoFIG (Sustainable Local Food Investment Group)
- Peter Wilkins, Managing Director, Hyde Park Angels
- Chuck Templeton, Managing Director, Seed 2 Growth (S2G) Ventures; founder, Open Table; former Chairman, GrubHub
- Mark Thomann, Co-Founder, Spiral Sun Ventures
- Andrew Bluestein, Managing Partner, Bluestein & Associates
My main takeaway – besides the overwhelming depth of knowledge, focus, and support for emerging food brands – is the common thread these investors seem to look for when they choose to invest in a brand. Innovation, differentiation, and a brand story that has ability to connect to an audience: these attributes are almost as important as the product.
Many of the product and brand “origin stories” I heard that day had deeply personal connections to the owners. In fact, the story the winner of the Good Food Pitch Slam, Ready to BRANDS, gave in their pitch had an “edge of your seat” life-and-death feel to it. But I don’t think that is what drove the judges to award the top prize to Ready to BRANDS. They had a very strong business model, an unmet need in the marketplace, and a fully branded story that is not only on par with any fully developed brand in their category, but also one that does not leverage the dramatic origin story.
Brand as a cornerstone to business
With the win, Ready to BRANDS creates a compelling case that, while drama can inspire one to go down an unexpected path and create a whole new product – the brand still needs to resonate with the target audience. That is what we call “foundational branding” here at NewPoint. It seems like we always have one in the works. We work with smaller, local, or emerging food brands who are at the stage where branding becomes a cornerstone to their business model.