So you want to start a CPG business..
Ask anyone who's ever started anything.
It likely began with a "bar napkin" idea. After a couple Diet Dr. Peppers at your favorite watering hole you begin brainstorming an idea for the newest, greatest, biggest, boldest, best tasting, longest lasting, health conscious, better-for-you food product that will change the world.
Only problem is you're a swim instructor and lifeguard in the Summer and don't know the first thing about Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), making food, packaging food, selling food, or even the acronym CPG. This is the moment that separates the doers from the don'ters. First thing you should know, most of the brands you admire likely didn't have a clue what they were doing either. So here's a few things I learned in the early Papa Bear years that I'm so glad I did..
1) Pick up the phone. Remember when I said you don't know anything? Well guess who does? Your suppliers, your distributors, your wholesalers, and other folks who have been doing this for a living. Nervous to sound like a dummy when calling a packaging company to find out if they make your dream style of packaging? Well guess what, you are a dummy, so own it. One thing I have some fun with is calling suppliers and instantly reminding the customer support representative that they know more than me. It puts them in a power position and makes them pity you just the slightest. Good support reps will help you uncover the information you're seeking, even if they're not able to help you, simply because you humanized the situation.
2) Make friends. Golllllyyyyy this is a good one. You'll have a lot of questions starting out. One of the greatest gifts is having experienced CPG entrepreneurs who are comfortable with taking your call or text for advice. Join groups, go to meet ups, make friends. It's a lot more fun that way.
3) To Farmers market, or not to Farmers market, that is the question..There's plenty of successful Farmer's Market businesses out there who thrive on the weekends serving the local community their product. So, what I'm about to say, is by no means a knock on Farmer's Market businesses. But if you're in the CPG world and plan to grow your business beyond your local community don't spin your wheels setting up tents and tables on the weekends. Farmer's Markets, in my opinion, are great for a couple things. 1) Instant, real time feedback on your product. If you're allowing customers to try before they buy you'll get an instant reaction from the customer on whether or not they like your product and often real, honest feedback. Also, you just never know who you might meet! 2) Simple product depletion and cash flow. If you're running a CPG business with short to medium shelf life, you have to deplete. Farmer's Markets are a great way to go out and sell.
So take it from a guy who's made a lot of mistakes and give these three things some thought. At the very least they'll save you some time, energy, and money.