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Guy: [00:00:01] You’re listening to Good Foodies and this is episode 10. Today we’re talking to Tessa Stuart about branding and packaging, market research and how to get your product flying off the shelves. So stay tuned.

Kylie: [00:00:19] This is the Good Foodies podcast, a weekly show about people, brands and businesses, doing good in the world of food.

Guy: [00:00:28] Hello and welcome to the show. My name is Guy Routledge from Sapling Digital and Eco & Beyond and we’ve got another fantastic show lined up for you today. I’m joined in the studio as always by my co-host Kylie Ackers. Kylie welcome to the show.

Kylie: [00:00:42] Hi everyone!

Guy: [00:00:43] Nice to see you again. Today we’re going to be chatting to Tessa Stuart who is a branding and market research expert. The interview that we’ve got cued up, and of course we’ll also have our lessons learned afterwards and our resource of the week, but the interview starts with me talking to Tessa about what branding is? I thought we’d start the show by asking you that question Kylie. So what does branding mean to you?

Kylie: [00:01:09] So I think, for me personally, it is what characteristics does someone or something or a business have that uniquely identifies them. So as a person you might brand yourself as funny, humorous, straight-talking, well-dressed whereas a brand might ‘brand’ themselves as comforting, straight-talking, no-frills, healthy. That’s how I think of branding.

Guy: [00:01:41] Very good. You must be well-prepared for this then because I think when most people think of branding they start of and they say, it’s the logo or it’s the colours or it’s the packaging design and stuff like that. It’s really interesting the way that Tessa talks about this stuff and it goes much much deeper it’s really interesting.

Kylie: [00:02:00] But I think those things, the colours and the logo, speak to those parts of you. So for example, I would never brand myself in pink, because pink is not a colour that I associate myself with. Whereas someone else might brand themself in pink because that’s a colour that they identify with.

Guy: [00:02:17] And it is interesting that you mention that because Tessa Stuart, I don’t know how many of our listeners know her or have met her in person, but she is pink through and through. So every time I’ve met her whether it’s at a conference or whether it’s been on another podcast recording or even if you go to her website, everything is pink. She always is wearing like a pink jumper or a pink cardigan or something like that. So she has I assume very intentionally branded herself.

Guy: [00:02:47] She’s got lots of really really interesting things to talk about. We will now dive into that interview with Tessa and then we’ll have a chat about it afterwards. So I started by asking her what branding means to her.

The Interview

Tessa: [00:03:03] Your brand is what you establish in the mind of your customer or your consumer. So for example if we took an example, like Cadbury, you might remember the purple that’s associated with Cadbury’s. You might think of enjoyable times when you’ve eaten a bar, you might think of your childhood and growing up with Cadbury’s. So, to me your brand is really those generated associations with your food product which happened over time in the mind of the consumer.

Now I know I’m not answering a question about what branding is, which is the process of creating I suppose a visual identity or something that works across lots and lots of platforms. Maybe in your exhibition material or your van or whatever it might be that covers branding. But from my point of view I’m all about saying, okay how can you develop a strong visual equity and maybe even some part of your mission, that will start to lodge in a consumer’s mind and be effectively what they retain of your brand.

Guy: [00:04:07] That’s really interesting. So I think a lot of people would see the result of the process of branding, which is the visual artifacts and resources that are created as part of the process. Things like you mentioned, the exhibition materials are all the packaging or the logo or what have you. But you’re saying that it really starts in a much deeper level. What are some of the questions that you would ask to come to that understanding of what really is the core of the brand, the feeling that you want people to associate with, what is effectively a product or a company?

Tessa: [00:04:42] Well I’m no brand designer, I don’t do branding per say, I do market research to assess existing branding or to look at new brand ideas. I’m very much in the evaluatory end of things but I think it would start with, why are you doing this, what’s your why? Simon Sinek. How are you different from the alternatives out there? What is your point of difference? Are you driven by a mission or are you trying to create a product that didn’t exist before, because you were dissatisfied? All that sort of stuff, down to, what are your ingredients, is there a story around those? Is there a particular cuisine that you’re wanting to bring to market? Do you have a particular angle? Are you a chef?

Tessa: [00:05:31] I will sit down and say, “Where did the idea for this come from?” when I’m talking to people before I assess their branding. And they’ll send me a PDF of what they want to do, and whether all the branding messages and the health messages are correct. And I’ll say, OK what was the driver for this? Where is this coming from? Where’s the authenticity? which is an overused word these days.

But there has to be a consonance between all the elements of the brand otherwise consumers pick that up. They can pick up a falsity in communication. There will be something that just jars that doesn’t sit comfortably together with the rest of the comms. So I like to bottom it out. Or quite simply sometimes, are you just doing this for money you? Which is sometimes the rationale, plain and simple.

Guy: [00:06:23] And in some cases there is the correct answer. They’ve perhaps found a gap in the market and they think, oh we’ll capitalise on this, and really it is just a case of getting in with the right look, the right message, to capitalise and make some money.

Guy: [00:06:36] What do people often say to you when you ask those questions about, what are you trying to achieve and where did this come from? Are people armed with a response like, it’s this and this and this and this or do they look at you blankly?

Tessa: [00:06:48] Sometimes they look at me quite blankly. I had a conversation with somebody recently who rang up and she said, I’ve come up with this idea. She explained how she’d come up with it and it really resonated with me. I said, oh my god that’s brilliant! How do you think of that? And she said, I went looking for it in the supermarket it wasn’t there, and I really wanted it and so I built it. But then we had a conversation about where would you expect to find it? Because it’s a brand new product, so where would it sit, because it did pre-exist, so where’s it going to go?

I think it’s so multilayered, you can come up with something, but then my focus is always, okay, who’s the consumer for that? Who is the customer, how did we reach that? Where are they going be hanging out and how do we get to them? So I’m always coming at it from that commercial angle rather than from a pure branding angle. I started out in advertising and I moved into market research because I was more interested in the consumer truth than the branding. I work with branding every day, it’s what I do, but I am so much more interested in how things come across to consumers, and customers, and how they understand them.

Guy: [00:07:58] That’s a really interesting term, I don’t think I’ve heard that before, “consumer truth”. Can you speak to that a little bit more, what does that mean in simple terms?

Tessa: [00:08:06] Well you might for example, have your USP, and you might take your product out and test it on people who will then say, well actually I would use this product in exactly this way and it would meet my needs in this way. So you might have one way of coming at it, and often you’ll find when you’re researching a product that consumers will come to it and use it in lots of different ways. Or they’ll have reasons for buying it that you might not have thought of, as the originator of the brand.

For example, I’ve just don’t some work with Unilever on Red Red Stews, which is a vegan freeze-dried product, which is in WholeFoods and has just been launched. You could argue that it’s a better pot noodle. So some people might relate to it as a better pot noodle. It’s very much an African recipe idea from Ghana but with a really funky London remix, so the branding is quite young and quite vibrant. The original idea came from Zoe’s Ghana kitchen in Pop Bixton. So it’s got that kind of spin on it, it might be something that would be quite fun to be seen with.

Equally it’s something that would just sit happily in your cupboard for when you come home, and you’ve been working shifts or whatever, and you’re hungry. There is that very prosaic functional need. All of those aspects, the brand is nice, I want something because I haven’t got a fridge at work, or I want something I can throw in my bag because I’m a nurse and I’m doing a night shift, or I’m a teacher and I only get 20 minutes in the staff room. So you’ve got these different bits of the consumer truth which are the reasons why people want that in their life.

Tessa: [00:09:46] So consumer truth is a fancy way of talking about USP again. But I think it’s worth thinking about that because those could be very multi-layered. So for example, you might have a vegan person who’s just become vegan, which is really a thing in London at the moment. People are trying out veganism, so they’ll be vegetarian for a while, then they’ll go, I’m going to be vegan this month. So they might be actively looking for products that help them achieve that goal. So therefore the veganism of the product would be uppermost for those people.

When I do research and I talk to maybe 50 people in a category about a particular product, then I’m mapping all of those reasons, all of those rationales, and all of those emotional pulls, for coming towards that product. In the case of Red Red, we tested it with some of the African community, from obviously different African countries, young creatives in London, and when we gave them to taste they were transported back to their childhoods, because this is the kind of thing that their aunties used to cook up. You know, there’s all sorts, they were there going “Oh my god, this Red Red is so great and it just reminds me of what I used to eat at home when I was a kid”.

There’s all sorts of levels of connection; you’re looking at how can you connect with the consumer, how can you answer their needs, but how can you also meet those deep emotional requirements that we have from food, to soothe us, to make us healthy, to just be comforting. Food is emotionally multilayered and that’s why I think it’s endlessly fascinating to work in.

Guy: [00:11:26] Absolutely agree, and it’s really interesting to hear some examples of how complex it can be and how multilayered as you say. So is the goal of your work to try and find the most obvious theme, or the biggest group of people who will resonate with the the biggest aspect of a brand and a product, or are you trying to harmonise across the board and to reach as many different people in as many different ways?

Tessa: [00:11:52] To reach as many different people in as many different ways as you can. For example, I did some work with Wahaca recently on their mealkits, which are in Tesco Waitrose. They are competing with Old El Paso which is a really established brand, with huge promotional spend, constantly discounted, and enormous facing in Tesco. If you walk in, there are loads of them, and they’re all yellow and red.

So Wahaca’s job is really to try and attract people who want something slightly different in Mexican, because Old El Paso is fundamentally Tex Mex rather than street food Mexican which Wahaca is. So the branding was designed to catch adventurous millennials, but also to not frighten off those families who habitually buy Old El Paso, because you can’t just build a brand in a multiple like that the back of some passing millennials. You’ve got to have a wider appeal.

Tessa: [00:12:45] You also have to look at your pricing strategy. You have to look at the size because these are all things that people look at – they would pick up the mealkit that I was showing them, and they would overlay it on top of the Old El Paso, and they would count the tacos is each one and look at the value proposition, and the price per gram which is obviously on the shelf edge. So people are really evaluating stuff very quickly and very acutely now.

I think customers are very savvy about branding, and about paying for it, and Aldi and Lidl are educating them that you don’t need to pay for a brand. This is terrifying for the industry, because if you think about it, the food industry has been built on big brands with huge advertising budgets, lodging that name in customers heads, and Aldi and Lidl are going, “You know what, you don’t need to do that, you don’t need to pay for that. You can have something that’s just as good and you don’t need to buy a brand”. Now I think, we all do buy brands because brands say something about us and that’s not going to change.

Guy: [00:13:46] And I think there is an aspect of familiarity as well. People go for the brands that they know and that they feel comfortable and confident with, to a degree.

Tessa: [00:13:54] I think you’ve also got millennials who will try new brands, some for whom it’s part of their identity. So if you roam through WholeFoods on a Saturday, you will find a lot of people who are being more experimental, partly because they are moving into veganism, so they have to go hunt out products. But I think the young are more open to new food experiences, they’ll go and try jackfruit.

If you look at Tesco’s Wicked Range, which is vegan, it’s got some really quite interesting ingredients in there. So people are wanting to be educated and are educating themselves by trying new things. You see this quite a lot in London, I think because it is part of Londoners, young Londoners identity, is eating out. And so therefore it’s good if you know who is hot on the block, and where the best street food is in Hoxton and that kind of thing, it’s all part of your identity. But I notice it. My daughter lives in Manchester and they will go out, and they will find the best tapas place, and they will go and eat there. They’re spending quite a lot of their disposable income on food.

And it’s interesting, what you see if you read about the big brands, you me about Unilever and all the big conglomerates, is that they are struggling now because these smaller, nippier brands are coming out and stealing significant market share from them very quickly. And they can’t move in response. If you’re a millennial, it’s cooler if you’re buying this product, then if you’re buying the one that your Mum buys.

Guy: [00:15:29] Yeah that’s a really good point. I guess this is where you come in, in terms of what you help people do. So obviously you’ve just spoken, very eloquently, very knowledgeably about the industry and how it works and what’s hot and what’s trending. But I guess the thing that you do, is you work with brands to help them understand these things, so that they can put themselves in the best position and capture that part of the market that they’re going after. Is that right?

Tessa: [00:15:56] Yeah. I’ve recently worked with Unearthed, who have a listing in Waitrose, and they produce continental meats and olives, and salami platters. They wanted a big piece of research, because they said: “We’ve got various issues going on. We want to know how people relate to the products, we have a meeting coming up with our Waitrose buyer and we want some fresh data. We have a lot of sales data but we’re not really bottoming out what’s going on in the marketplace. So can you go out, can you talk to 75 shoppers across 15 different stores.

So we wouldn’t get a London bias I went out to Surrey, I went out to Oxfordshire, basically went on a road trip around Waitrose’s, and went and interviewed four or five people in each place about what they were buying in continental meats and what they were buying in olives. And then what you get is you get various themes coming through, which are consistent themes, which if you then take that back and tie them in with their sales data, start to tell a picture of what is happening and how people are relating to those products. So it’s live insight into what’s happening in the aisles.

Tessa: [00:17:00] For example, I did some work for Seafood & Eat It, who are a sustainable Cornish crab supplier, and they’re in Waitrose. He said “I’ve only got a budget for one day’s research”, and I said fine, “you sample in Waitrose East Putney, and I’ll come along and we’ll talk to customers in the store on a Saturday”. And he said to me: “what I’d really like to find out, is that Waitrose believe that people who buy and eat crab are over 55, and I have a feeling that we’ve got under 35’s getting into the brand. I would really like some sort of evidence to take back to Waitrose, with some sort of insight that that is happening. Because that will mean that they’re bringing in a younger demographic, or that younger demographic is seeking out my product”.

So he said to me, “go and see if you can find someone under 35 who likes my crab”. That was the brief. He was sampling away, and I just wondered around Waitrose looking for people who seemed to be in the right age bracket, just sort of saying: “do you ever eat this product?” And I found some raving fans for him and videoed them, which was very powerful actually to take back his buyer at Waitrose and say, look it isn’t just the older generation – it is people who are getting into and who are actually quite heavy buyers of crab. The data wouldn’t wouldn’t reveal, necessarily, he couldn’t afford to buy the data that would support that.

Guy: [00:18:19] Really interesting. So can I just get this straight, you hang out in supermarket aisles talking to random punters about their buying habits, their opinions, what they think of the way something looks, perhaps the way that they think it tastes if they are already a customer, and you just chat to people in supermarkets all day.

Tessa: [00:18:40] Yeah. I would generally do 40 to 50 people and after that it’s the law of diminishing returns, if you get to 50, which is the base number that Innocent used to use when I worked with them doing this kind project. They said you can work off a base of 50 people. A hundred is fine, but you don’t need that many, because this is insights.

So typically I’ll get a brief from a client. I was in Tesco with Jimmy’s Iced Coffee earlier this week, and she said, let’s go and talk to the lunchtime crowd in Tesco Farringdon and find out what iced coffee they’re buying. So we stood there, watched what was going on, asked people why they’d chosen Starbucks that they had, or why they were choosing Jimmy’s? Because it’s important for them to understand ahead of their buyer meetings how Jimmy’s product was being received and has it stacks up against the opposition.

You sit on that shelf, it’s an inanimate package, it doesn’t matter how good the branding is, it’s still going to resonate and attract people. I guess what I’m doing is checking the overall attractiveness of the brand and whether it has pulling power.

Guy: [00:19:44] And I can imagine, that whilst this sounds quite simple, which is go to the supermarket and talk to real people, I imagine that there is a huge mental block for many. Because just chatting to some random person that you’ve never met might be a little bit uncomfortable for some, perhaps if you’re very close to your product you might not want to hear the feedback if there’s any negativity in there. So even though it sounds like something that is relatively straightforward, I can imagine there’s a lot of barriers to people doing this themselves.

Tessa: [00:20:13] Well, you have to connect with people really quickly. So, for example in a lunchtime gaggle going into Tesco Farringdon Road, you’ve got between 12:00 and 2:30 to get hold of people, and they’re moving at pace. They’re moving really fast which is good because it means that they’re actually operating on instinct when they approach that shelf of ice coffees. You’ll really seeing how they shop in real life. It’s as close as you can get, and you’re seeing what packaging cues are making them reach out. And then, if you ask them very quickly, “what attracted?”, then they can say, “well, it looks like a coffee cup” or ” I always buy Starbucks because it’s really good coffee brand and that’s what it stands for”.

So it’s not as random as it sounds. We’re always really clear about who we want to talk to. We’re clear about how many people we want to talk to. We try and find a store that has a really good solid demographic that matches the customer profile. So Farringdon Road for example had a lot of people under 30, which is the Jimmy’s Iced Coffee customer profile. What you’re trying to do is get inside their heads when that hand reaches out to the product and why? And we’re not asking “why?” because we don’t want people to switch into their rational mode, because we can all rationalise. Where are their eyes going, what are they looking for?

So it’s as much observing as anything else, but it is the questioning. And I had the client there, and she was watching and she said “Oh my God, this is gold dust. This is really helping us understand what the key determinants are of why people pick up one brand over another and how we can make that work for us.”

Guy: [00:21:52] Yeah, I guess you also have to know the right questions to ask as well. How would you get started? How would you interrupt somebody who is on a mission, in their lunch hour, to go and buy the meal deal? What do you say to them to to engage them? Or is that giving away the secrets?

Tessa: [00:22:09] No, there are no real secrets. I’ll just say “excuse me, could you possibly tell you why you picked that up right now?” I’m saying that using the “why” word: “What it was that made you pick up this product?” And people, tend to jump which is quite funny. And then I say, “look, we’re doing this, we’ve got permission and it’s a proper piece of market research, can you give me an idea of why you went for this? What’s motivating you to pick it up?”

Because you only want that little glimpse of why they went for it or why they didn’t go for it. And also you want to check, are they noticing the client’s product, are they actually seeing Jimmy’s on the shelf. And what does the packaging of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee saying to them? What were the food values, works it communicating about the product? Are there any barriers? Sometimes you find there are barriers and people won’t pick up a thing for some reason.

I once did see some soup research, the client decided that they would put the soup in a sort of bag. It wasn’t in a pot it was in a bag – and they gave me these products. Waitrose was very keen it should go into a sort of bag with a cardboard seal around it, to cut down on the plastic. So I took these things to Canary Wharf, and they’re on the shelf there, and I gave them to people and they gave them straight back to me, they wouldn’t hold them.

Guy: [00:23:26] Oh really.

Tessa: [00:23:27] They would not hold the product. Because there was something about the structure of that, that made them feel unhappy. And they said “I wouldn’t buy that because I couldn’t put that in my bag”. Like a pot of soup,  it’s solid, it’s not going to break, it’s not going to leak. And they just backed away, which was really interesting, because although Waitrose and the client thought it was a great idea to reduce plastic, and use less and there was an environmental case for it, customers did not want to pick it up. They would go to the shelf and look at it, and then they’d put it straight back. There are things like that, that you don’t get unless you are actually there with a 3D thing.

Sometimes I have to work with flat images of product and I always say “please make me a mockup”. Because people need to feel it, and hold it, and we try to weight things. Like the Red Red, we weighted it to represent the weight that would be in those pots. You know, when they were fully made.

Guy: [00:24:28] Smart move. It’s all about getting the most accurate data isn’t it? About trying to really make it as close to real life as possible, even if you are dealing with a mockup. So that you’re getting the most real data.

Tessa: [00:24:43] Yeah.

Guy: [00:24:44] Yeah. Really interesting stuff. And a lot of this research that you do, you’re observing real people using real things and gleaming lots of information from that. In terms of branding, and marketing as well, it’s all about knowing your customer, so have you got any tips for people who are perhaps struggling to really get this big picture, or this clear picture of who their customer really is?

Tessa: [00:25:13] You’ve got to get it into a situation where you can share it with people who aren’t your friends who’ll say polite things about it. The classic thing is, get on a market stall, get into a retailer, get into a pop-up. There are lots of pop-ups now, there have been a series of pop-ups in Old Street station in London where you can test your product. Go into We Work, into one of the co-working spaces and just put it out there, and just get some feedback. Because it might be the thing that you think is brilliant about your product is the thing that people actually don’t like, or don’t want, or don’t have a need for.

Founders and companies are often incredibly close to the product, they can’t step away and get that dispassionate distance, which is sort of what my job is. I come back and say, well actually here are all the things people really love about it, here are the things that people find difficult, right let’s turn these things on their head and see if we can drop the barriers, the things that are stopping people buying the product. That might be, you might need to tweak the price, you might need to take the size down, you might need to emphasise an ingredient story that’s really resonating that you could make more of. You might need to show off the product, so that people really see it.

Guy: [00:26:20] All of this is, I think probably the best way to get real insights, but I imagine that if we’ve got a whole load of startups listening, they often wear many hats, and so having the time to go to a physical place to talk to actual people in the flesh can be challenging sometimes. Are there any online tools or online sets of data that people can be tapping into, to help them learn a little bit more perhaps in like a desk research capacity as well?

Tessa: [00:26:51] We buy food in 3D. We don’t buy, ok you can buy food online with Ocado or whatever. Instagram is quite a good tool, you should always have an Instagram account, you should start doing behind the scenes. You can sell from your Instagram account, and I know various jam makers who do. Anything like that is going to give you some feedback.

But no, there are no online tools that are going to help you with this other than social media to spread the word. Listening to the feedback that you get from your customers – there’s no short cuts in this business, you’re delusional if you think there are, that there are easy ways of doing it. There aren’t. You have to get that product into real people’s hands, and and sit there and listen to the warts and all. Actually, if you’re on food founder and you’re not prepared to do that, then you’re going to have a really hard time, because all of this business is about interacting with people.

Guy: [00:27:40] Completely agree, and I think so great to hear those very honest and blunt bits of advice, from someone such as yourself who has so much experience in this area. Really really important to get that feedback and to get it in people’s hands.

Guy: [00:27:57] And speaking of you being an expert you literally wrote the book on this stuff didn’t you.

Tessa: [00:28:04] Well, I met John Vincent who’s the founder of Leon Restaurants and I was writing him a cheeky e-mail so that I could get in front of them because I wanted to do some work with them. And he said to me, you write quite a good e-mail, have you thought about asking people in the industry for their five things they wish they’d known before they launched their food product. And that would build into quite a good blog series.

So I went away and thought about it, then sent a load of cheeky e-mails to people I didn’t know saying, I want to build this blog where startups who are coming into the industry can read about your experience and understand from you, learn from you, what your advice is. And so I just did it as a hobby thing and I’d send off an e-mail, then people would reply, and an amazing number of people were willing to oblige. So yeah, I had people from Higgedy, I had people from Rude Health, saying these are the 5 things we wish we had known. And that just sat there and built up, and I just enjoy doing and I enjoyed reading the responses obviously.

Then people started coming to me and saying, well you haven’t got a proper website, you’ve only got this blog and we want to buy food research from you. So I knew I had to take them down, all of these blog posts, I had 45 pages of them by this point. So a friend of mine said to me, well just self-publish a book with them in it, it’s really easy to do. Not quite as easy as you might think with Amazon but you can use their CreateSpace program to write your manuscript, turn it into the right kind of uploadable file.

I went to a company that do the food branding for Brindisa and La Fromagerie, and I said, look I’ll send some of my food clients to you for branding work if you will do the covers for me. They agreed to that barter, so I didn’t pay for the cover design, but I knew I needed a really good cover design. And then I just put them on Amazon and they went live. And Packed, which is the first one, has been a best seller ever since I launched it.

Tessa: [00:30:01] So there clearly is an appetite out there for help, because people will often come into the food business from completely different industries, and they might be super savvy and they usually are, but they don’t know a lot of stuff. And, to the people who are listening to this I would really suggest that you join the Food Hub, which is a brilliant closed Facebook group where you can ask any question you like. Somebody there will have done it before or post the answers for you.

Because people don’t know how to calculate profit. They don’t know any of that and there is only a little bit of that in my book because actually obviously it depends on your ingredient costs and your production costs, and your retail price, and how you want to do all of that. But people don’t think about that, they just think, I’m going to make a beautiful product and put loads of nuts in it, and then they don’t realise that the end price will make it too expensive for any customers to buy it. So you have to sort of start from the end and think okay how do I engineer, how do I build a product that people can actually afford to buy on regular basis.

Guy: [00:31:03] That’s really interesting. We had Jason Gibb on the show on our very first episode actually, and he said almost exactly the same thing. He said, you have to start with the end in mind and work backwards.

Guy: [00:31:14] Just before we continue, I just wanted to check about the content of this first book, Packed. Did it include all the stories that you used to have as blog post or was it something completely different.

Tessa: [00:31:26] It included some of the stories as blog posts and then a bit more. But my second book ‘Flying off the Shelves’ has new material which I went out and found because people were coming back to me having read the first one, which is really a starter kit, something to read when you’re starting out and thinking about building a business. They’d come back to me, and they’d go, well I’ve got a product on the shelves, what do I do now? And how do I get into stockists and how do I make it fly off the shelves and what do I need to do next? So people are often very focused on building a product, but they still need to think about: how am I going to sell it, how am I going to scale, what am I going to do? And so, Flying off the Shelves was designed to answer some of those questions for people.

Guy: [00:32:07] Is it like a step by step handbook to how to actually do this, once you’ve got the product, how to get it into the supermarket. And then how to get it out again flying off the shelves.

Tessa: [00:32:16] Yeah, with contributions from people who’ve done it. So I went to a lot of my clients and said, Okay you’re approaching buyers what are the things you shouldn’t do when you’re trying to contact a supermarket buyer, what are the things you should do? What are the ducks that you have get in a row before you go and do that presentation to Ocado?

So again I didn’t want it to be just me, I wanted it to be people who’d built food businesses and had got them into the supermarkets and were scaling them. So again, I built it with lots of contributions from people. I’m not thinking that I have the answers to it all, I think if you have lots of different contributions it’s a much stronger book.

Guy: [00:32:53] No I completely agree. Really great stuff and it’s unbelievable we’re starting to run out of time but there are a couple of other things I wanted to try and chat to you about. The focus of this podcast and this show that we do is primarily about brands who are doing good in the world of food, so perhaps they use ethical ingredients, or they use sustainable practices, maybe they’re a social enterprise, they do something with healthy things, all sorts of different things like that. And we’ve talked quite a bit in this show about how to position those things, all the nuance details of branding. in your opinion, do you think that you can lead with the mission or do you have to lead with flavour and something that people actually want?

Tessa: [00:33:42] I think you need to do both. So there is a company called Onist Food, run by a lady called Mary, and she wanted to make a chocolate avocado pudding and she also really wanted to build in some social good right from the beginning. So for every pot you buy, some money goes you give a breakfast to a child in the Gambia. And that was right from the beginning, that was the mission.

Guy: [00:34:08] Yeah, I think they do the the Buy One Give One concept.

Tessa: [00:34:11] And I like that. I think those two things knitted together are very strong. I think sometimes if you if you lead with mission people can get a bit bored with that. The product has to taste good. It has to taste good is. People aren’t going to part with their hard earned cash just for mission. Some will, but the vast majority of us are much more selfish. We want to buy a product that tastes good. For example, Unearthed give a penny a pack to Action Against Hunger. I think there’s all different levels of mission. That can make you feel good when you’re buying your serrano or whatever. It’s a small reason to choose that brand over another one. I have seen too many mission led products that taste rank.

Guy: [00:35:02] I love that you don’t mince your words.

Tessa: [00:35:03] I can tell you I saw on Twitter today a charcoal activated vegan croissant.

Guy: [00:35:10] Oh my goodness!

Tessa: [00:35:13] It looked like it had been burned and then laid out. It was sort of grey and ashen, and this is a health trend, because charcoal is supposed to good for you. It’s absolute bollocks, it’s not good for you. It’s ridiculous. And this is now, the woman who tweeted is, it’s now gone viral because it’s such a hideous unpleasant thing to look at. You’re not going to walk in for breakfast, and say, Oh my god I really fancy that charcoal activated vegan croissant. If you look at the ingredients list, it’s like, oh what the hell is this!

You see these abomination of food products, and obviously that’s not mission led, that’s wellness led, another whole area of dubious nutribollocks if you like as Ian Marber says. But I think the two can sit it hand in hand. You’ve got Toast Ale doing a great job, of reusing stuff. But it’s still got to taste nice cause people aren’t going to buy it again.

Guy: [00:36:19] I think you have to go in with the taste first to get people get people engaged. And then when you discover the stories and the mission, and the good things that they’re doing, or the inspiring things that they’re doing, then it just helps to reinforce the good experience you’ve already had in terms of the way it looks, or feels, or tastes, or what have you. So yeah.

Guy: [00:36:41] If you think about it, Innocent succeeded, because they have no advertising in their first five years, they succeeded because of the word of mouth of the incredibly delicious smoothies. Way back when smoothies were something that we all thought was a great thing to drink. And they made a better product than anyone else. So when you tasted those little bottles they were genuinely revolutionary and you wanted another one.

Our taste buds are the things that say, “god I remember that flavour, that was amazing”. This is why chocolate’s so important, and why peanut butter does so well, because it gives you that real kick to taste buds and a real memory. You get a sensory memory for how that thing tasted or what the texture was. And often if you go out and buy some snack bars or some energy balls, if you like, you will find that they pretty much all taste the same because they all have date as a basic ingredient, and they’re all smooshed, and they might have a few nuts in. But if you line them up and you were blindfolded, you would not be able to taste the difference between those brands.

And so what you need to have, you need to have some good sensory things that you can own. So there’s a really good brand called Kitchen & Soul Food, a new startup brand, and she makes her energy balls and she spices them beautifully and they’re like flavour bombs in your mouth. She’s got a lemon and cardamon one, that’s just divine. And you eat that and you have a real memory of what you’ve tasted, which is going to make you think, oh you know what, umm I quite like that flavour, I’d quite like to do that again. Whereas a lot of products out on the market they’re a bit meh. They’re a bit meh, they’re not anything. And so you’re not going to remember them.

Guy: [00:38:21] They’re just a bit average, yeah.

Tessa: [00:38:23] Really average, and average doesn’t cut it.

Guy: [00:38:26] Wow, amazing stuff and some great insights. We’ve covered a lot of ground in just a short amount of time. And just to wrap us up now, if you had a little bit of advice for any of our fellow food entrepreneurs who are listening, what would you say to them in terms of anything that we’ve talked about, whether it’s branding or packaging, or doing your research. What’s one piece of advice you would have?

Tessa: [00:38:53] I would say be very confident. I think a lot of food business is crippled with self-doubt, quite rightly. We’re all crippled with self doubt. But food businesses more than most because they’re really putting their necks on the line. And your branding needs to be really really confident. Really confidence, so you need to dial it up.

So if you think it’s assertive, it’s probably not assertive enough, because you’re going to go up against established brands with really clear strong visual equity that people relate to and connect with as I said at the beginning. So my first thing to say would be that. The second thing would be try and build a following as quickly as you possibly can. So whether that’s on Instagram, and start getting that feedback loop.

I think it’s so easy now, you can put up an account on Instagram, you can show off your beautiful product and almost start trading that next day, because you can make your product at home and sell it online. So here’s no excuse for not getting out and making a shopfront and presence and starting to sell to people. People say it’s really complicated and difficult – it’s actually not. My books went live on Amazon, I just emailed everybody I knew and said right these things are live. Then the sales happened. So you just have to not theorise about it too much, but just get out there and do it.

Guy: [00:40:12] Tessa Stuart, and you can find out more about her and her fantastic services, her books, and everything else at Still to come is our Resource of the Week, but up next our Lessons Learned.

Lessons Learned

Guy: [00:40:36] I tell you what I could have spoken to Tessa for hours. She has so much amazing experience and insights and I love the way that she’s so blunt. She just tells it how it is. It’s fantastic.

Kylie: [00:40:46] Reminds me of me.

Guy: [00:40:48] Yeah yeah I was thinking that a couple of times as well. As we listened back to this interview I literally laughed out loud a couple of times. It’s just some really great stuff in there. Kylie I know that you’ve got lots of notes, what were some of the things that you took away from it?

Kylie: [00:41:04] So first of all, I love that Tessa’s has got just so many case studies or stories to tell of other brands, which really helps to relate the theory to practice, so that’s the first thing. But what I really picked up was how branding or a brand isn’t about the colours, and the logos, but is about experience and sensory memory. And I love that idea that, as she said with a Cadbury’s, you don’t think, some people you’ll think about the purple and the chocolate, but you think about how it feels when it melts on your tongue or how you celebrated your anniversary with this amazing chocolate.

Guy: [00:41:42] I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated an anniversary with Cadbury’s.

Kylie: [00:41:46] OK, I’m thinking about women. We celebrate everything with a bit of chocolate.

Guy: [00:41:50] Fair enough

Kylie: [00:41:51] But it also made me think about the reverse of that which is if you have a really bad experience with something, that experience is going to stay with your recollection of that brand. So we all have, I’m sure, whether we were teenagers or in our 20s, that night when we had too much to drink and the next day we’ve said, “I’m never drinking gin again or I’m never drinking rum again”. And so whenever you see rum or gin at a party you’d be like, “oh my god, no”.

Guy: [00:42:19] It makes your stomach turn doesn’t.

Kylie: [00:42:21] Yeah. And that is almost the reverse psychology, you’ve had a really bad experience so you would never touch it again. If you have an amazing experience you’ll be forever telling people how amazing it is.

Guy: [00:42:34] Yeah, I guess that can come through with brand memories as well, right. So it’s not just the memory of, what is yours mine, mine is Bacardi. I can’t drink Bacardi again.

Kylie: [00:42:42] Mine’s rum, any type of rum.

Guy: [00:42:44] If someone has a negative experience with your brand then that can really stick with them, so it’s got to be a great product. That’s a clear message that came through from Tessa as well. We talked a little bit about product and having a good mission,  being a brand doing good and absolutely it has to be about the product.

Kylie: [00:43:03] Yeah and what she was talking about, that there’s so many products that you could try three or four of them and not be able to distinguish between them, they’re so the same. If you’ve got a product that is the same, no one is going to remember you. So the next time they go to the supermarket they’ll be like I need a blank, and they’re presented with three or four on the shelf and they’ll be like it, doesn’t matter which one I pick up, they all taste the same.

Guy: [00:43:27] Yeah it’s really tough to cut through all of that noise isn’t it? And I also like that image that she gave of people in the supermarket picking one thing off the shelf and then another thing side by side you. I think she was using the example of.

Kylie: [00:43:39] Iced coffee or something.

Guy: [00:43:40] Oh I was thinking of the Old El Paso verses Wahaca one. So people literally overlaying the boxes and counting what’s inside. It’s amazing, I think sometimes people, you’re reading blog posts online, reading books, listening to podcasts, watching videos, whatever it is, and more often than not people are saying that your audience is stupid in quotes, and so you have to help educate them and all that kinda like stuff. I think people are smart.

Kylie: [00:44:06] Yeah, people these days look at the nutritional information, they’ll be like, okay so all things given the same which one is going to be worse for my hips, or which one is going to give me more vitamin D.  They’re clever.

Guy: [00:44:20] I’m not too worried about my hips although maybe I should be. Who knows.

Kylie: [00:44:24] Again that’s a, slightly more, me thing.

Guy: [00:44:27] Well it’s great that we’ve got both sides of the coin covered here. Anything else on your list there that we should have a chat about.

Kylie: [00:44:34] Yeah. One that I’m on board with is Tessa’s sentiment that the word authenticity or authentic is over used, but I think that what she was talking about is really true. If you are creating a brand because you want to make some money, don’t try and make up some fake story about how you came be, just make a really good product, make it nutritious, or healthy, or whatever the customer might want, but don’t try and put some backstory to it that people are just gonna see straight through.

Guy: [00:45:07] So I think the lesson there is that people are smart and they will see through it if it’s completely manufactured in terms of the story and all of the messaging. So instead of trying to fake it, it’s all about trying to find that real connection, that real story, behind the product, or behind the business, or behind the mission whatever it is. So yeah really important.

Kylie: [00:45:29] One of the things again that I took away from this, particularly for the smaller brands, and not everyone is going to be able to afford a Tessa Stuart in their life, as much as we all would need one.

Guy: [00:45:40] I would love a Tessa Staurt in my life. She’s brilliant.

Kylie: [00:45:43] But there’s some some great little nuggets in there about getting feedback, and even through Instagram, so you don’t have to get out there in a supermarket. Just get something up there and start asking some questions. And don’t be afraid to ask those questions and certainly listen, as she says, sometimes you can be so close to the product that you don’t want to listen to all the negatives. But that’s where you’re going to make your product better.

Guy: [00:46:08] Yeah. And so important to get that real feedback from real people. I remember throwing out that question about are there any data sources or is there a shortcut way of doing this, just to see what her response would be, knowing what the answer was going to be ahead of time almost. And yeah she was saying there are no shortcuts and it’s unfortunate but true. It’s got to be real people, you’ve got to really see them in their real environment.

Kylie: [00:46:31] And real people doesn’t mean your friends and family because they’re just going to tell you what you want to hear. It means going out there and talking to someone that you have no clue about who they are and why they would even pick up your brand product. But just ask them what they think. Another great tip was, don’t use the word why. And I hadn’t really thought about that but of course it goes to your rational brain and that starts to come up with some reasoning. It’s ask: What did you like about it? What did you feel about it? What made you pick that up instead of the other one. The what questions – people will just respond instinctively.

Guy: [00:47:05] Yes. You’ve got to start with why, in terms of your brand and your positioning and your audience, and Tessa mentioned the Simon Sinek book “Start with Why?”, which is a great resource. And then when you’re talking to customers you’ve got to ask what or how.

Kylie: [00:47:20] One more thing which Tessa said quite quite a few times throughout the interview, was that branding is multilayered. And I think this actually goes back to another belief of ours – you have to iterate a lot of times. So you’re not going to get it all right, you’re not gonna get your why right, you’re not going to get your audience 100% right, you’re not going to get your product right, but you have to continually be getting it more right. So revisiting why you want this product, what do you stand for? What does your target customer want? Why are they buying that? And continually improving your product.

Guy: [00:47:57] Yeah. Great stuff. Tessa’s an amazing woman with amazing experience, as I said I could speak to her all day about this stuff. But we should probably wrap this section up now and move on to our Resource of the Week.

Resource of the Week

Guy: [00:48:14] The Resource of the Week is Tessa Stewart’s book. You may be able to sense a theme here, what’s that expression, if it’s a guy who likes a guy, it’s a bromance. I don’t know what the expression is for when you have a lot of respect for somebody in their field. I’ve got a bit of a bromance.

Kylie: [00:48:30] A Tessa-mance?

Guy: [00:48:30] I don’t think that’s right. But we’re feeling the love for Tessa’s Stuart in the studio today. And she mentioned her books in the interview and the one that we’re going to plug as the resource this week is “Flying off the Shelves”. It’s brilliant, I’ve got a copy of it, I haven’t had a chance to read it all yet because I’m quite busy, you know, making podcasts and speaking at events and all sorts of stuff like that. But I love the way she’s taken all of this experience from a number of different sources, experts in their field, people who’ve actually done it, rather than hypothetically done it or want to do it, and distilled all of that information into this great book.

Kylie: [00:49:11] I imagine too that the book is very similar to what she did in the interview, which is she used examples and case studies of real people that she has worked with and pulled out real life tidbits and little nuggets of information that anyone could use in their own business.

Guy: [00:49:28] Absolutely right. Yeah, there’s lots of examples in there. And the tagline of the book is “The Food Entrepreneurs Guide to Selling”. And that is something that everybody needs more of. Right? Whatever stage you’re at, whether you haven’t even started yet, whether you’ve been going for six months, or a year, or a couple of years, or whether you’ve been around the block a few times and you’re 10 years into it, selling more is probably fairly high on the agenda.

Kylie: [00:49:52] It’s also the end game. Anyone that’s creating a product should have selling in mind because at some point along the journey you’re going to have to sell your product to make some profit.

Guy: [00:50:01] And selling shouldn’t be considered a dirty word.

Kylie: [00:50:04] It is a bit of a dirty word.

Guy: [00:50:06] Well it depends on the context right? If you’re talking about a used car salesman, then yeah it probably conjures up memories of having a bad experience. But in order to stay in business, and to do more of what you do, and especially if it’s doing more good, then you need to stay in business and you need to sell.

Kylie: [00:50:23] Yeah and if you’re taking Tessa’s approach to selling, which is understanding your customer and making sure that your product is what they want, then absolutely selling is not a dirty word.

Guy: [00:50:32] Absolutely. I did a workshop recently and we were talking about this stuff and it was all about alignment. So aligning your business goals, which is selling and making money, with the goals or the needs or the problems of your customer, your target audience. Really really important stuff and that is the approach that Tessa is taking in this book. And one of the things that I love about it, as we’ve touched on here, there are tips from the experts. That is literally some of the section headings. She’s got tips from Selfridge’s, she’s got tips from Fortnum and Mason and Whole Foods, and case studies of people who have been there and done that. And then there is a whole section towards the end of the book, section 2, it’s like an A-Z of practical tips.

Kylie: [00:51:20] Going onto Amazon for example, tips on how you label your product, tips on crowdfunding on Kickstarter, tips on using MailChimp.

Guy: [00:51:32] Yeah, just so much good detail in there. And I think everyone needs some help with selling and this is a great place to go and get it. So there you go, that’s our resource this week. Kylie any last thoughts to add?

Kylie: [00:51:45] I just wanted to throw one more thing in, not specifically about the book, but just something that Tessa said about the way that the book came to be. Which was, someone said, “you should put all this together into a book”. And she thought, “that might be a bit difficult”, but she thought, “what the hell I’ll do it anyway”. And as she rightly says is if you want to do something like that just go figure it out. There is nothing that is too difficult. Most things are fairly simple, doesn’t mean that they’re easy to execute on.

Guy: [00:52:13] Yeah that’s something that we say around here all the time. And yeah it’s funny, I’ve just been thinking we could do a similar thing. We could take some of the interviews that we’ve been doing on this podcast and take out some of the nuggets and package them up into a book. If anyone likes the sound of that then drop us an email and maybe we’ll make it happen.

Kylie: [00:52:31] Sounds like more of my time being consumed by another product.

Guy: [00:52:34] And to be fair it was your idea.

Kylie: [00:52:36] Yeah, I know.

Guy: [00:52:36] So I just kinda stole credit for that.

Kylie: [00:52:38] Like always.

Guy: [00:52:39] Well, we’ll see how all of that pans out. In the meantime I’m going to try and get another couple of chapters of Tessa’s book under my belt. Thanks again for joining us today, we really appreciate it, as always.

Guy: [00:52:51] If you are enjoying the show we’d also really appreciate a positive review on iTunes. It really helps other people find the show and helps to spread the word about all of the amazing work that our guests are doing. So to do that head to And remember that if you want to get any of the other notes, or links, or read the full transcript for this episode, the only link that you need to remember is Just head over there for all that good stuff and to check out the full archive of all the other episodes as well.

Guy: [00:53:23] Next week we’ve got another fantastic show lined up for you. We’re going to be chatting to Alex Littaye from Azure Foods, about living on an active volcano whilst building a sustainable supply chain in Mexico, and making an energy bar for ultra marathon runners. So it’s another great one. We hope to see you there. Bye for now.

Kylie: [00:53:43] See you next time.