Running a food company? – taste your product!

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday, food was a much more popular topic than politics. As you can imagine those discussions were also a lot more pleasant. We are a food family that also happens to have been involved in both cooking food and manufacturing food. Many of our conversations start with: “This tastes like…” and end with suggestions on what beverage would pair well with the dish.

Beer or Wine with that? Duck raw TG 2018

That choice will depend on how you are genetically wired – how your taste buds interact with your brain.

At its most basic, the 5 tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami) signal our bodies what to get ready for.

But it’s far more complicated than that!

Z Niche blog taste map 112618


For many years science used a simple map of our tongue to show the areas specializing in specific tastes. We are now realizing that it involves not just the taste buds in our mouth but in the throat and down to the stomach. In addition taste involves smell, texture and nerve endings. For example, research has also shown how certain foods can send signals to our brains that distort normal data. For example, capsaicin directly activates our tongue’s touch rather than taste-bud receptors. For more detail you can read Tip of the Tongue: Humans May Taste at Least 6 Flavors .

How does that tie into running a food manufacturing company?

When I first got involved in manufacturing foods, the Chairman of our parent company had an example he liked to use whenever he visited one of the plants and requested a tasting of the products that were being made.

His opening line was: “If the dog does not eat the food…”. It was the story of a European dog food manufacturing start-up that made the best dog food in the world. Unfortunately, they went out of business in 3 months. They forgot to test if dogs would eat it!

I took that story very much to heart and to this day when I am involved with a product that I can eat, wear or otherwise use personally, I insist on doing so. I should add that it may not make the product better, but it does insure that it works as intended.

Finally, a shout -out to Donald McKenzie whose blog “Dining with Donald always includes a book review or two. He is the one who recommended the book “Tasty” by John McQuaid . It was thought provoking.



Trade Shows – To do or not to do – that is the question!

Trade shows have been a marketing fixture since 1851 when the “Great Exhibition” was held in London.

Trade Show 1

Since that time, Trade Shows have become a staple in the marketing mix of established companies.

What about Start-Ups?

If it is a B2B product, we strongly recommend that our clients include Trade Shows as part of their marketing budget. If it is a B2C product and our client also wants a retail channel,  then Trade Shows are a great way to get exposure to buyers from large and small chains. We also urge the client to be sure that the Founder and all senior staff attend the show and work the booth.

Why? – Because Exhibiting works!

“Trade shows are the #1 business-to-business marketing expenditure to support sales – beating out specialty publications, internet, promotions, and PR respectively”

It is estimated that 80+% of all exhibit attendees have some sort of buying power. So if they stop at your booth, your people and your booth must be ready to impress.

Whether you are at a National show in Chicago or at a Regional show in Austin – you owe it to your product and your stake holders to be at your best. While your booth may be minimal, your effort must be at the maximum. You have about 15 seconds to make a first impression, so make it count.

Some other tips:

  1. Do not economize on your booth location – get a corner or a larger booth
  2. Bring adequate POS material
  3. Have sufficient staff to give everybody down time
  4. Have a script and a chain of command for staff working the booth
  5. Have a daily pre-show meeting to get everybody on the same page
  6. Have a daily post-show meeting to review the day
  7. Do not tolerate sloppiness or inattention–texting can wait
  8. Be prepared to provide pricing information – delivered to the customer
  9. Be ready for surprises
  10. Last but most important: Know why you are at the show and know what you are trying to accomplish

After 35 years of doing Trade Shows, I can tell you that they are hard work. I can also tell you that proper preparation can improve results exponentially. So if you are just starting out, or already have few years of operating, I urge you to consider Trade Show participation. Carefully select a show to fit your purpose, do your home work and then watch your sales soar.