When I’m not engrossed in the latest CPG news, digging into recent trends, or exploring the shelves of my local grocery store to see what new products are making people ooooh and ahhhh, it’s not uncommon to find me putting around my kitchen experimenting with the latest crop of recipes I’ve ripped out of magazines or bookmarked on my laptop. I love food. I love everything about it—eating it, making it, feeding it to other people, photographing it, writing about it, reading about it.

I am, in short, the Food Network’s complete target audience rolled into one person.

The other day I was reading an article in the Washington Post’s food section (my all-time favorite newspaper food section). It was a great, practical article, even for a skilled cook and baker like myself: 8 baking tips for cooks who think they can’t bake.

I know I can bake (my oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and éclair cake are proof positive of that), but it’s never a bad idea to get back to the basics every once in awhile. Even Ina Garten would agree—she’s got an entire show dedicated to the idea. But as I’m reading the article, it strikes me how much these tips could apply to a lot of different scenarios, including new product development.

“The best tips that apply to bakers and CPG entrepreneurs alike are: Be patient and Have fun.”No, I’m serious! Take, for example, the tip, “If you want to get wildly creative with a recipe, first you have to understand the technique behind it.” If you’re trying to revolutionize the granola bar segment, or even just trying to develop a new flavor, new texture, or new enrichment to a granola bar, don’t you first have to understand the basics of that granola bar? What are the elemental components of the bar? What do people like about them? What don’t they like? You can’t revolutionize anything if you don’t know what needs changing.

Or there’s the tip, “Make sure your oven temperature is accurate.” I realize this may not apply to all of the new products hitting the market—hair care, for example, probably doesn’t have much of a need for a 350 degree oven—but think about it in the bigger picture. If the market is your oven, is the temperature of your product, too hot? Too cold? Or is it the Goldilocks of products and you’ve found something that is Just Right? We’ve talked extensively before about knowing your product inside and out, but it’s also important to know your market and your audience just as well.

Probably the best tips that apply to bakers and CPG entrepreneurs alike are the last two in the article: Be patient and Have fun. Four little words that boil down the journey from idea to market so succinctly, no? Entrepreneurs have to have endless amounts of patience, as the process of developing a new product and rolling it out to market is rarely a fast one. And it’s unlikely to meet an entrepreneur who isn’t fun—that lively, creative persona is what helps create the vision that will become the product that changes someone’s world.

It’s always good to have a refresher on the basics, no matter how far down the road you are. And once you’ve gone over those, come back and join me to look at how to build on those basics and take your new product—and your baking, if you’re so inclined—to the next level.

Cutting it in the Kitchen Part 1

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