Before launching your product at a market, as with any outlet, it is important that you test its suitability to the marketplace. Of course farmers’ markets are a great place to conduct research but before you get directly to consumer feedback you should evaluate the broader market environment.
- Visit all of the local markets and shops around your area to see if similar products already exist
- Talk to as many people as possible, including those who produce or sell a product similar to yours
- Prepare some sample product to test among potential customers. Bear in mind that people are unlikely to give you negative feedback directly so, in order to achieve reliable results, some form of blind tasting may be useful (or get a third party to conduct the research on your behalf)
- Bord Bia’s Market Information Department has large repositories of information, which can provide you with current consumer and market trend indicators as well as information specific to your particular product category. Sourcing as much research as possible can be vital in ensuring that you do not enter a product category which is already saturated or in decline. New innovative products are often the key to success in both the farmers’ market arena and the wider marketplace
Ensure that your Product is Unique and Clearly Perceived as such:
It is important that your product is perceived to be different to other products in the marketplace rather than a ‘me too’ offering. You need to ensure that you establish your USP, or Unique Selling Point, and that you clearly and effectively communicate this to ensure that you stand out from other products
Establishing what differentiates your product from the competition is critical to its success in the marketplace. ‘Uniqueness’ is a multi-dimensional quality and a balancing act is required between highlighting the strongest points of difference of your product and communicating its overall attractiveness.
A product can be unique for several reasons:
- Taste: Does your product taste better than other similar, competing products?
- Authenticity of ingredients: Do you use vanilla pods rather than vanilla essence, for example
- Production method: Are your products dry-aged, hand-crafted, etc.?
- Provenance: Is there a special story relating to who makes the product or the area it is made in?
- Health benefits: Are there health benefits to your products which scientific research can support?
- Freshness: Are your vegetables harvested and sold within, say, 12 hours? This is an important consideration for many customers.
- Rare variety: Do you sell an unusual variety of a fruit or vegetable?
- Locality: Are you highlighting your proximity to the market, especially if you are based within a 20-30 mile radius.
- Organic status: Fertiliser and pesticide-free foods, and good animal welfare credentials are a priority for many customers. Remember that you must have the necessary accreditation from the relevant certifying body.
- Price: You need to ensure that the price you charge is fair and competitive within the marketplace. Go to our sample pricing model.<Insert Link Here>
- One USP may be enough to make your product stand out from competitors initially; however, it is in the product’s overall quality, and not on any individual point, that sales growth will be based. A brown soda bread which has organic status as its USP may attract initial attention but may find it difficult to sustain long term sales, if it doesn’t deliver on taste and freshness also.
- Quality and freshness: Quality is paramount in the delivery of all goods and services and the farmers’ market environment is no different.
You must ensure that you have created a production system that delivers consistently good product. Irrespective of what you are selling, freshness is key, as long-term success in the marketplace ultimately depends on this.
One bad experience may mean a customer never returns again and negative word of mouth can have even more severe implications. You need to be rigorous with your standards. A policy whereby you and your staff try out a sample from each batch produced is a simple and reliable foundation for a quality control strategy. This could also act as a taste education tool for staff becoming familiar with the product.
- Shelf life: If you have a product that has a short shelf life, you need to be acutely aware of the rotation process so that you can keep product moving and avoid the problem of stock going out of date.
There are some simple ways which can help extend the shelf life of your product, e.g. if you are selling organic meat, it may make more sense to sell it frozen rather than fresh. Alternatively, you may be able to vacuum pack some products so that the shelf life is lengthened. It is essential that you verify the use-by date on your product by running the relevant shelf life trials. For further information please refer to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Guidance Note 18, determination of Product Shelf-Life on the FSAI Website.