Selling your Michigan food product (part 2)

Spending the time to research and target your potential market may take out some of the uncertainty with your new venture.

The Michigan State University Product Center can assist prospective food entrepreneurs to understand and develop food marking plans through educational programs and business counseling.

You make a terrific chip, salsa, cookie or pickle and you have researched the kind of equipment, processing and licensing you will need to make it for sale. “People love this stuff and we should have no problem selling it,” you think. Spending the time to research and target your potential market may take out some of the uncertainty with your new venture.

Find out what type of similar products are already in the marketplace. You can do this yourself with a little legwork. Go to the stores, markets, and internet web sites where you think you would like to position your product. You will probably find out that your food product is not unique and that there are plenty of competitors. Study appearance, packaging, quality, retail prices shelf life and ease of purchasing items similar to your own. Ask people if they buy these products and why. 

Knowing which people chose to purchase a food product like yours for what reasons goes a long way toward targeting your market. Once you profile your customer you will need to figure out how to reach him/her. Websites like Michigan Market Maker feature tools for demographic searches and mapping of retail outlets and restaurants to help you place your product.

What role will the worldwide web have in your marketing plan? Will a web site tell your story, direct customers to retail locations, take orders, host a blog, or enable social networking? If you plan to incorporate Internet technology, think about the communication habits and preferences of your target customer. 

While you probably do not need a college degree in marketing to successfully sell your food product, you will certainly need to incorporate marketing into your business plan. Find out how by participating in an upcoming Road to Independence class offered at various times and locations, or by attending Michigan’s premiere specialty food show, Making it in Michigan October 19, 2011. Requests for business counseling by Michigan State University Product Center innovation counselors can be made at or 517-432-8750. 


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