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Seven Questions Startups Should Ask To Get On Store Shelves

By Abigail Steinberg, author of “Recipe for Success: An Insider’s Guide to Bringing Your Natural Food to Market


I have always been fascinated by start-ups, dreaming big, and being an entrepreneur. Zevia Natural Soda was a brand I helped build, nearly from conception. It all started for me in Los Angeles. I was making short films, working with major networks like the NFL, had a two-year first look deal with DreamWorks, and living an artistic life. But I had yet to find my real calling. Nothing was quite panning out. A friend of mine asked if I wanted to make a little money working a natural foods event for a couple of days. I thought why not? I took the gig which turned out to be Zevia.

The company, at that time, was in its infancy-stage. This family-like environment and team was fun, dynamic and we seemed to be good friends. I joined immediately and became the Zevia go-to-girl for Southern California. The company was based in Seattle. They were in need of someone in California to close deals and quickly manage this Southern California territory. Molded by these active entrepreneurs I quickly learned about the natural foods industry, and gained a strong sense of brand awareness.

We were attracting influential press. Founders Derek and Jessica Newman were married, both lawyers, had established a private law firm, and had a vision to change bad diet soda habits. Jessica was once a Diet Coke addict and suffered chronic headaches. Instead of giving up soda, they created the first all-natural stevia soda. The idea? To experience soda without chemicals and artificial sweeteners. To me, their mission appeared personal. I fell in love with this brand and so did the rest of America. The company ultimately sold to Northwood Venture Capital in 2010.

After that valuable experience I went on to consult for many natural foods start-ups. I saw again and again the same mistakes start-ups make when trying to get any type of products onto store shelves. These mistakes cost owners millions of dollars. You don’t want to start a race in the wrong direction. Some simple questions could have stopped the avalanche of unfortunate mistakes.

Asking yourself some hard questions so that you can save yourself from a world of heartache. If you don’t have answers to these questions below, you may want to rethink your strategy:

1. Who is my target market?

This is the number one question asked because it’s the question you will need to answer repeatedly. If you don’t know, time to rethink.

2. How innovative does my product need to be?

Don’t be a knock off. Be NEW. Who likes new? Right now everyone. Duplication does not cut the mustard, but new and innovative does. As long as the innovation is not beyond comprehension.

3. What sets my product apart from the competition?

If you don’t stand out, you won’t sell.

4. Does my product have a look that is similar to the competition?

This can and does happen. But not if you do the research. You should be the expert of your category. Not learn as you go. So here imitation is not the best decision.

5. What’s the best price point for my category?

Look at the competing products and their prices and ask if your price point is to be the same or lower. If it’s much higher, you better have a great reason. It also has to be the kind of reason any consumer would understand too.

6. Is my category growing or shrinking?

Make sure your category is not over saturated. The less saturated the category, the more likely you can get shelf space.

7. Is my product in demand?

When you are creating a product, you must ask why. Is there room for one more? Or better yet, are you the new category?


Abigail Steinberg

Abigail Steinberg is the author of Recipe for Success: An Insider’s Guide to Bringing Your Natural Food to Market“. She is a sales executive, senior manager, and consultant in the natural food industry. She was instrumental in launching Zevia, a zero-calorie stevia sweetened soda, scaling it up for venture capital sales and acquisition, and is currently the Southern California Regional Sales and Education Manager at Rainbow Light Nutritional Systems, a natural vitamin brand.



This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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