Product Development
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M&A Advising

Expert Tips On How to Beat Your Competition to Market

David Pelyhes
July 10, 2024
min read

Beating your competition to market isn’t just about being the first on shelf. You need to deliver the best possible product. Taking time to ensure your product is delicious, appealing to consumers, and can be produced at scale are keys to staying in front of your competition.

Experts with the right experience help you think ahead and ask the right questions for commercial readiness. They ensure you strike the right balance between speed and meticulous preparation. We spoke to two JPG Talent experts in food science and product development, Bridget Sweeney and Joanna Dwyer, and gathered five practical tips to help your journey to become the market leader in your space.

Why is it important to beat your competition to market?

If you’re too slow to market with a quality product, it will be harder to carve your position within that category later on. Market leaders bring innovative ideas to F&B that fulfill unmet customer desires. They tend to make an impression early and achieve better brand recognition.

New innovations bring the opportunity to become the category captain within your niche. Consumers will recognize your brand as the leader, and you’ll oftentimes be able to secure a larger shelf footprint with retailers.

Early innovators are usually rewarded with better brand recognition, market share, and pricing power, leading to better sales and bigger profits in the longer term. Let’s look at five practical ways expert support can help you gain that competitive advantage.

Preempt Roadblocks

Understand the right questions to ask from the outset. Before too much time and money is used on development, bring in experts with knowledge and previous experience to help identify what businesses and products are doing well and where there are opportunities for improvement.

Bridget recalls optimizing a family-owned bakery's production run, preempting processing time roadblocks when the business scaled and increasing the run output. When she asked why they mixed a cake batter and ran the product down the line in a certain way, they answered, “That’s just the way we’ve always done it”.

She implemented a new method where the ingredients were added in a different order, making the mix time shorter and the process more efficient. After running a side-by-side comparison of the two methods, the team agreed that her method increased throughput and produced a better tasting cake.

“Aesthetically it was just night and day,” Bridget says of the new product, “There’s something called the grain of a cake and the grain is how you tell the quality, how tight the cells are. There’s no cracks, there’s no air bubbles, there’s no defects.”

“When they compared their method with my method, they saw clearly that this new way of processing and mixing was going to help benefit their company.” She adds.

TIP: If your business is struggling while operating based on "how you've always done it", it might be time to test alternative operations to improve efficiency.

Influence Cross-Functional Teams

Different teams and experts within an organization add unique perspectives and knowledge to a project. However, dealing with many different stakeholders can slow down the innovation process.

External experts can look at your organization from a fresh angle and help create alignment within teams to move projects forward. This often results in more creative ideas and efficient progress towards your goals.

Bridget implements different processes depending on the size of the business. When working with smaller companies, she engages the leadership as well as operations personnel on the production line by having them taste new products and give their feedback.

“I like to bring 'out of the box' of ingredients to incorporate in their product matrix,” Bridget reveals, “I would work with their current suppliers and their current ingredient library to make the best tasting product possible.”

She continues: “Then we would take these prototypes and do some sensory testing with people in the office and others in the organization to engage them in that process.”

With larger companies, she pulls together the whole R&D team and marketing team to an innovation summit.

“I’d have each person bring five to six ingredients that they think would be compatible and innovative to try out,” Bridget explains, “Then we would pull all the ingredients and have people either develop a new product conceptually or actually make the physical samples themselves.”

“We would then evaluate the samples, narrow down the pool, and bring a handful of the best concepts to share with the rest of the organization.” She adds.

Joanna agrees that bringing in members of different teams, especially early on, leads to a more collaborative and creative process.

“When appropriate, I try to bring in people from supply chain and operations as early in the process as possible to get their perspective,” she says, “because there are always things that we're not thinking of, and they bring different ideas.”

Faster Problem Solving

Issues and unexpected challenges often occur when engineering a new product and taking it into production. Experience brings knowledge and understanding that can shorten timelines and hit retailer launch windows while maintaining the highest level of quality.

Joanna works on many projects in the confectionary world where companies need to rework existing products to create additional customer value.

“Let’s say your manufacturer has this capacity to make a differently shaped filled chocolate bar,” Joanna says, “Maybe your product is too large, and the value is not there. We'll shrink it down into a smaller size and package it differently, utilizing the same manufacturer, the same capacity. You already have all these ingredients in-house.”

Bridget worked on a disruptive new cracker for a leading manufacturer where the product was dry and the dough was cracking on the production line. After adding time for the dough to rest and having the team play with the order of ingredients in the mixer, she improved the product quickly.

“We shortened their timeline for commercialization from four weeks to less than one week and the customer was first to market with the product,” She reveals.

Bridget conducts extensive research and has conversations with everyone from the leadership team to the production workers to understand the company and product better. Having extensive experience, she gets a gut feeling before even starting a production run. Combining prior experience with current company knowledge, “You may only need one trial, instead of three to five trials to get it right, because you already know what the potential challenges are going to be.”

Understand the Importance of Functional Expertise

Every team has strengths and weaknesses. Your team may not have specialist knowledge to enter a new category or solve a specific type of issue in your existing category.

Joanna has worked with clients like this before, who tell her that “we need someone to come in and reformulate and tell us essentially what we're missing and what we’re doing wrong.”

A functional expert can remove bottlenecks to success in new categories. Someone who has been there before in a specific industry niche has the experience to understand the intricacies and drive better results.

Besides filling gaps within your team, an expert can also fill in communication and understanding gaps between your business and external suppliers. Joanna emphasizes the value of “being able to call someone who understands the specifics and can be your advocate in that relationship and advocate for the product in a co-manufacturer relationship.”

TIP: Make sure someone on your team, whether internal or fractional, thoroughly understands the product and production process so they can clearly communicate and advocate with your co-manufacturers.

Accelerate and Scale

Even if you become a category leader, your competitors will be close behind. Securing the first movers' advantage to stay ahead is essential, and you must continue to optimize and further develop scaling capabilities.

To continue forward momentum, Bridget meets with each shift of production workers before a trial run and has them taste the product’s gold standard samples. She suggests having pre- and post-production meetings to agree on standards and expectations, and she ensures a quality assurance leader is on site.

“Once they (line workers) feel like part of the story, they’re going to want to make this successful,” she says, adding, “They’re going to feel involved and it’s going to motivate them.”

Increase Your Speed to Market

Being a market leader involves anticipating and solving problems quickly by ensuring you have the right experience on your team. Leaders fill skill gaps where necessary and verify production scalability to maintain their advantage.

Fractional experts have the right experience and passion to guide you through innovation and commercialization.

“The key to being successful is being passionate, loving what you do and genuinely wanting to help people.” Bridget explains, “Not just because they pay you. You do it because you really want them to be successful, you want to impart the knowledge that you have and pass it on to other folks. And perpetuate the love of food science.”

Learn how JPGTalent can help you find needed expertise to beat the competition and increase your chances of becoming the leader in your product category.

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