|Food marketing expert Chris Cornyn helps aspiring entrepreneur Patricia Kiernan design her label on Lifetime's Supermarket Superstar (photo: Adam Taylor)|
Have you ever thought of taking your signature dish to supermarket shelves? Anyone ever told you that you should bottle your barbecue sauce, salad dressing, homemade jam?
That's why I was so excited to talk with Chris Cornyn, founder of DINE Marketing, one of the country's premier food branding companies. Not only has DINE developed the brands and packaging for more than 2,000 different food products, but Chris is currently a mentor on Lifetime's new food reality show Supermarket Superstar, where aspiring food entrepreneurs compete to get their products manufactured and in front of grocery buyers. If anyone knows what it takes to make a food product successful, he does. Read and learn.
Erika: How long does a product have to get shoppers' attention?
Chris Cornyn: There's a lot of research on that. It takes somewhere between 2.5 and 3 seconds for a consumer to decide whether they're going to pick up a product - we call that "The Stop." If they pick it up, then generally they look at the label. That's "The Sell" - they look at the photo or illustration, the product if it's showing, and the information on the label to decide whether they want to buy it.
Erika: When the Supermarket Superstar contestants came in, how far along were they in their product development processes?
|The Supermarket Superstar mentors: From left, Debbi Fields of Mrs. Fields Cookies, chef Michael Chiarello, and Cornyn, with program host Stacy Keibler (photo: Adam Taylor)|
Chris Cornyn: All of them had an idea that they thought belonged on supermarket shelves. But none had thought out what we call "The 6 P's": product, positioning, packaging, production, profit, and promotion. I assume anyone who wants to get into the food business has a delicious product. But the other P's are what make the product work.
Erika: When you first meet the three contestants in each episode, they give you a short pitch. How much help did they get with that?
Chris Cornyn: I don't really know - that was the first exposure we three mentors had to the contestants. I heard some of the ideas and thought "That's a home run - just needs a little tweaking." Other people came in with unbelievable passion, conviction, and personality, but they didn't have the product to match.
Erika: What did you think of the guy who made snacks out of cricket flour [in the Natural Foods episode]?
Chris Cornyn: I was rooting for him because he's trying to change the world by making a sustainable protein that helps the planet. We're one of the only countries that doesn't eat insects - you can go down to Mexico and get some amazing cricket tacos. Is America ready to start eating bugs? Maybe not. But is he a trend-setter and thinking ahead? Absolutely.
Erika: In one episode the contestants made barbecue sauce. Does the world really need another barbecue sauce?
Chris Cornyn: Actually, a mature category like barbecue sauce is ripe for innovation. Consumers like to try new products, even if they're really similar to existing products, just because they're new. What about a barbecue sauce with an ethnic twist? Or a sustainable angle? Or a local style of sauce that's not as well known? There are ways to make everything new.
Erika: What trends do you see in food product labeling and packaging?
Chris Cornyn: The label should have as few ingredients as possible, and the easier they are to pronounce, the better. The package and label have to stand out in the product's category. I recommend that food entrepreneurs go buy every single product in their category and set them up like a grocery store shelf, then put their product in the middle and ask random people - not family and friends and neighbors - which ones they'd pick up.
Erika: Once you get your product made [and there's a whole manufacturing issue to deal with which doesn't get a lot of attention on the show - it's pretty technical], then you have to sell it. How does that usually happen?
Chris Cornyn: The most successful food entrepreneurs are the ones who go out and sell it themselves, often starting with small independent grocery stores or at farmers markets. They know the product and they have the passion - no hired gun broker or salesperson can replicate that passion. When you see entrepreneurs demoing their products in markets, that passion comes across both to consumers and to supermarket buyers.
Supermarket Superstar airs Monday nights on Lifetime. Check your local listings for channel and time.