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Four industry professionals debate whether brands should launch imperfect products to gather feedback or wait until they’re fully refined, offering perspectives on private beta tests, rapid iteration and prioritizing feedback loops.
January 12, 2024
Many of the educational sessions at SupplySide West each year target trends that are new, fresh and quickly changing. The popular session, “Food & Beverage 101,” switched it up by targeting themes and obstacles that never go out of style, such as brand building, product development, supply chain challenges and ingredient sourcing.
This year’s Q&A panel included diverse speakers who offered different takes on a timeless product development quandary: “If you know a product isn’t quite perfect yet, be it for shelf life, packaging, design or even taste, should you wait to launch? Or should you get it out to market and change it in response to feedback?”
Here are four experts’ perspectives to help navigate this crucial moment in any brand’s journey.
“Nothing out there is perfect,” Udi Lazimy, founder and principal of the supply chain and sustainability consultancy firm Lazimy Regenerative Impact Partners, said. “When I work with brands, we’re constantly improving, always refining the product, the process, everything.
“Of course, I don’t want to put something out there that’s not going to succeed,” he explained. “But if [the problem] is something like shelf life, I’d go out there and declare that low shelf life. Then, as you get more data, ratchet up the shelf life. Knowing that maybe yours is 6 months, you can then target 12, knowing that your production cycle is what the current term on the shelf is.”
“Launch with like 40 to 70 people that you and maybe your co-founder know, and just get it out there,” Riana Lynn, former Google entrepreneur-in-residence and CEO of Journey Foods, said. “You don’t have to have an Instagram page yet. Just get their addresses and start to get the feedback as soon as possible. Maybe have an Amazon page—you can always spin up Amazon pages—but definitely get it out there as soon as possible for a sort of ‘private beta stage’ for your product.”
“You have to launch the product, get feedback and improve it,” Mohammad Salehi, owner and CEO of the Afghani fair trade spice producer Heray Spice, said. “I truly believe design does matter and branding does matter. But at the same time, if the product is not launched, you’re not going to get the feedback that you need. You have to launch, because there's no perfect world where you’ll know when it's the best time.”
“I would just ask, ‘What’s the rush?’” Matt Rink, co-founder and VP of sales at Every Body Eat, who also previously worked with brands like Odwalla, Perfect Bar and O.N.E. Coconut Water, said.
“If you know the product isn’t perfect and needs to prove you can launch it, you could do it on a very small scale,” he explained. “But if you go through the process of investing in packaging, the cases, logistics—all those costs for something that may or may not be the winning formula—then it couldn’t be when you’ve put all those dollars in for naught. Sometimes, it’s not necessarily all about speed. It’s more about doing it right.”
Nick Collias is a writer and editor with over a decade of experience working in the health and fitness industry. From 2016 to 2021, he was the host of the Bodybuilding.com Podcast, interviewing elite athletes and training thought-leaders on a wide range of exercise, nutrition and lifestyle topics. Additionally, he has worked for the last 20 years as a longform print and online journalist, as well as a book author, ghostwriter and editor.
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