Top 5 Tips for Building a Startup Beverage Brand
Top 5 Tips for Building a Startup Beverage Brand
Building a startup business in any market is a substantial endeavor, but it can be especially tricky to stand out in the food and beverage industry. Food and beverage startups face unique challenges, not least of which is a fiercely competitive market.
If you’re at the stage of Googling “how to start a beverage company” you likely already have something of an idea of what you want your product to be. But developing a beverage startup into a successful beverage business takes much more than just a good idea.
1. Do Your Research
Research is the most important thing you can do to set yourself up for success in any venture, but this is especially true when it comes to planning for an entirely new brand.
First and foremost, you need to define your market so that you know how big it is, what niches exist within it that will and won’t fit with your product, what kind of competition you are facing in your region, country, and even globally, and anything else you can use to plan your brand. You can source a fair amount of information from online tools, but detailed and reliable market reports usually come at a cost, so that is something that you will need to consider in your initial budget.
Once you have the lay of the land, start building your plan by answering key questions like what makes your product stand out? Are you really bringing something new and unique to the table or are you just adding to the noise without being heard?
Who is your product for? Because everyone is not an option, not at this stage. You need to understand the needs, wants, and values of your target audience and cater your product to deliver on those specifics.
What kind of market share are you hoping to hold? What kinds of retail spaces do you want to sell your product in? How much money are you going to need to get your product off the ground and where is it coming from?
After you’ve really explored these questions and come to a solid stance in terms of your answers, you should have everything you need to make your mission statement. Having your mission written out helps you to maintain the focus of the brand as well as inspiring others to join in your vision.
But just because you have your mission statement doesn’t mean your done with the hard questions. Possibly one of the most important questions you’ll have to ask yourself at this stage is who are you going to work with to develop your product?
2. Perfect Your Product
Taking your product from an idea to a physical reality requires a great deal of expertise, so it’s best to work with professionals who specialized in developing flavors for beverages.
There are many factors to consider when building the flavor profile of your beverage. The first is whether you will launch your beverage brand with a single flagship flavor or a starting range of 3-5 flavors? Are there functional ingredients with their own distinct flavor profiles that need to be taken into consideration?
You may already have a flavor or flavors in mind, but these may not be the best options when considering the entire formulation or for your target market. Flavorists, like the professionals at Renaissance Flavors, know how to craft the right flavors for the formulation. They also keep up with trends and can even help you to chose flavors that align with your intended customers.
In addition to choosing flavors, there are also a number of practical and technical questions that a team at a flavor house like Renaissance can help you address like is your product going to be sold as a ready-to-drink beverage or a dry mix? Does your product contain alcohol or cannabis and do you have the proper licensing? Are there any other certifications you are hoping to meet with your product such as being certified organic, GMO-free, Fair Trade, vegan, nut-free, etc.
Beyond the flavor, you will also want to make sure that the quality of your product can hold up over time in a variety of conditions. You’ll want to make sure, not only is your product itself maintaining quality, but also, that the packaging you select for you product is protecting that quality as well.
3. Pick Packaging That Aligns With Your Product and Speaks to Your Audience
In addition to being sturdy and secure enough to protect the quality of your product through transportation, storage, stocking, selection, and use, your brand’s packaging should also align with your product and reflect the needs, wants, and values of your customer that you defined in step 1.
With that being said, it’s also important to note that, as far as packaging goes, functionality outweighs everything. If your product doesn’t fit on a shelf, keeps falling over, or makes a mess when you open it, it won’t matter how good the drink inside is, people won’t but it and store won’t stock it.
This issues of getting stocked in stores is also slightly limiting when it comes to choosing the material of your packaging. Assuming your product is an RTD beverage being sold in its liquid form, your packaging options include glass and plastic bottles and jugs, aluminum cans, or paper-based cartons.
Glass bottles are a great eco-friendly and cost effective option, but because of the additional weight and the obvious issues with breakability, many retailers won’t stock beverages in glass bottles that aren’t already popular.
The next option is plastic, but with the nearly universal concern over ocean plastic and the drastic impacts of climate change that we are witnessing throughout the world, the forever material probably isn’t going to allign with the values of your target audience, especially if that audience is mostly millennials and Gen Z.
Cartons are making something of a comeback with the advancement of new technologies, but they are not without their drawbacks. While the main draw of paper-based packaging, like Tetra Packs, is that it is lightweight and either recyclable or biodegradable, the main issue is that they are easily damaged and not always so easily recycled.
That leaves cans. Cans are certainly a popular option for beverage packaging as they are lightweight yet sturdy and easily recycled. The drawback here is minimum production run amounts. For a fledgling startup beverage brand, 150,000 cans is a lot. This has less to do with the filling as it does with the printing of the cans themselves.
As an alternative, you can have your product filled into blank cans in much lower volumes, around 12,000 units, that you would then add your label to after the fact. Obviously, this will cost more per unit than a full run of branded cans, but it is still a good way to get your product packaged for an initial run to test the market and adjust before investing in larger quantities.
4. Sell the Product, Sell the Lifestyle
Now that you have your shelf ready product in hand, it’s time to market and sell it. This is where a large chunk of that initial research you did is really going to pay off.
There is a lot that goes into this step, and there are whole articles, whole books, even whole blogs and businesses dedicated to helping you with this stage of your startup so we’ll just take a look at the main points that you should reasonably expect to handle in-house.
If you are launching your startup from an online platform, you will likely be relying heavily on digital advertising and social media. Working with content creators is a great way to get your product in front of your target audience, just make sure that you, again, do your research, to ensure you are collaborating with the right people to reach your target audience.
This is where your brand’s mission statement, persona, and aesthetic will all come together to represent the value of the brand beyond the product. So, when you sell a product with wellness factors, you’re selling wellness as much as you are selling the beverage itself.
Once you have the story in place of what it is you are selling, it’s time to push it out to the world in whatever ways you can. The way that you advertise will depend heavily on what your budget looks like, but certain things, like offering coupons and discounts, are pretty much a must.
5. At the End of the Day, You Must Deliver
Now that you’ve got your name out there, and the orders are coming in, it’s time to deliver. Literally. Your product has to get to the end consumer somehow.
If you’re building your brand from an online platform, this could be as simple as direct distribution from your warehouse when an order is placed through the website or as intricate as shipping and stocking your product in hundreds or even thousands of retail locations.
The logistics of distributing you product are going to be impacted by a number of factors including the delivery area, whether that’s as limited as local delivery only or as expansive as global distribution, the frequency of orders, whether you will be able to do any kind of bulk shipping, and how many retail points need to be supplied.
If you are starting small and relying mostly on direct distribution of online orders, you will likely be able to get away with using regular postal and delivery services at first. But once you start to expand into supplying reatila locations, you will need to either invest in your own transportation equipment and hire a commercially licensed driver, or partner with a transportation and distribution service.
Even if you plan to start small, you should still have an eye on expansion for the future and plan now for how you will address it when the time comes. Plans can certainly change, but it’s a lot easier to change something that’s already there than to figure it out from scratch when the pressure is on.