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Get your food or beverage brand off to the best possible start

Get your food or beverage brand off to the best possible start

By Richard Horwell, Brand Relations.  Every startup founder needs to keep in mind that branding is as important as the product itself. 90% of a first-time purchase is based on the branding; it’s why a consumer will pick your product over their regular choice or your competition. 

So how can startup founders communicate their message to their target audience so that they decide to buy and try?


When you start developing your product you’ll need to ask yourself a raft of questions. These are much the same as the ones your target audience will ask including: ‘what is unique about this product?’; ‘should I risk spending money on this untried brand?’; ’does this product offer value for money?’ Your branding needs to answer all such questions.

The MOST expensive word in the Food & Drink category is ‘education’.  If you need to take time to educate the consumer, away from the packaging, then you’ll either spend millions or fail, or both. 

The best place to educate your target audience is on your product’s packaging, so your branding needs to be clear and provide instant education.  

Help make connections

We all tend to pigeonhole everything in our lives and whether we are conscious of it or not, when we see a new brand, we put it in its place. So, if your startup is attempting to break new ground with an idea or base ingredient then you need to add something to the mix that the consumer knows. 

For example, we have just developed a drink based on the Stinging Nettle called Emunity.  To help consumers to reach out and try this we‘ve added ingredients and flavours they recognise, like cucumber, gooseberry and wild strawberry. 

The key is to make sure the messaging is easy to understand and include elements that consumers can understand and connect to instantly. 

A product has to sell easily and quickly. Trade Buyers won’t give you long to prove that your brand works, so, make it easy for the consumer to choose your product fast. 

Get Answers to Key Questions

In order to get your branding right, you need to ask yourself and others some questions:

1/ Where will this product sell and what brands will sit alongside it? How will my product stand out against them?

2/ What is my brand message? For example, is it based on health, functionality, spoiling yourself or great taste? 

3/ Will my consumer be able to read the messages I have on the packaging from a distance, without picking it up?

4/ Does my brand look premium enough for the selling price?

5/ Why should a consumer buy my brand instead of their regular choice?

Getting the answers to these questions is the first step to creating brilliant branding.

Focus on Your Audience

Today the big brands are no longer dominating the market and there are plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs. Many consumers like the idea of trying something different, but they need to be drawn to a brand that relates to them and says, ‘buy me, I am new and exciting’. 

When I lived in Australia, I knew a very successful entrepreneur who could turn his hand to anything. When I asked him his secret to success, his response was ‘when you explain something to someone and they don’t understand, it’s not them that’s stupid, it’s you for not explaining it properly’. 

Consumers don’t care about a ‘new’ brand name, they care about what’s in it for them. So, make sure your message conveys this. Always focus on them, not you.

For example, we worked on a soft drink now called Chillio. The previous design agency had simply splashed the logo across the entire. In other words, the branding was all about the client, not the consumer. We rebranded it to sit alongside the craft beers so you could be out sipping Chillio without feeling embarrassed you weren’t drinking. The new name highlighted the chilli ingredient in the drink (its point of difference) and the visual design evoked fun, hot days in South America. 

Identify Your Point of Difference 

In order to have any chance of success in today’s market you must have a point of difference. This needs to be very clear in your branding and messaging on the packaging. Just being vegan, for example, is not enough – there are masses of vegan brands now, and when it comes to drinks most of them are already vegan.  

So, think about what makes your brand different, list these points and then pick the MOST important ones to highlight on the packaging. The less important ones still need to be on there, but they can go on areas the consumer will read once they pick the product up.  

Don’t Get Too Minimalist

Minimalism has become a trend in recent years with many designs jumping on the bandwagon. However, be careful not to make it too minimal. I have seen some laughable branding where a designer has tried to be cool but forgotten about selling the brand. This has led to the consumer ignoring it completely and reaching for the safer option, in other words, one of the established brands they already know. Find the right balance between doing too much or too little. You also don’t want to waffle; let your branding do the talking. 

Find a Relevant Name

With the growth in food and drinks products comes a rise in the amount of new brand names, which makes choosing the right name harder, and getting a trademark more challenging. Start by researching your chosen brand name and make sure it is RELEVANT to your product and your audience. Be clever with your brand name, find something that is simple but conveys your product’s message, not just a name that sounds cool to you and your family. After all, some names just sound plain stupid – so just because your friends think it sounds great, does not mean it will resonate with your target audience.  

For example, we worked with Can’O Water, which is a brand that has reducing plastic waste at its heart. They chose a simple, ‘does what it says on the tin’ name – after all it is water in a can, so why beat about the bush? They were ahead of their time and agile enough to adapt to the demands of their target consumer; they now make their cans reusable with close caps.  

Communicate Your Values

Consumers want brands to be transparent and they want to understand the brand’s heritage and values. Is the product certified to be Vegan, Fairtrade or Organic? Consumers are also looking for certifications like ‘B Corporation’, which commends businesses that give as much consideration to their social and environmental impact as they do to their financial returns. 

This move towards wanting to buy from companies with matching values is an opportunity for new, indie brands as the established companies can’t adapt quickly. 


As a startup founder, focus on your branding so you attract consumers. The great taste the added benefits and an ethos they can buy will then keep them coming back for more. With right branding in place your fledgling business and product will be heading for success.

About the Author

Richard Horwell is the owner of Brand Relations, a specialist food and drink marketing and branding company based in London. Over the last 13 years, Brand Relations has been behind the launch and development of over 100 brands in the UK. Richard has also built up and sold companies of his own in the Food and Beverage sector. He has over 30 years’ experience in marketing FMCG brands around the world, having lived and worked in the UK, USA, Australia and the Middle East.