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Food Innovation Camp 2024 Reflections
I loved the event and now have a better understanding of the food innovation scene in the Hamburg area. The food start-up climate seems cooperative and attracts amazing people. I felt a very positive vibe—and tasted some high-quality products.

Reaching the Shelf and Then…?
There is an interesting situation where, on one hand, it seems relatively easy to reach the shelf because of the wonderful ecosystem and support. On the other hand, many start-ups struggle to take off after launch—reaching more customers. I appreciate the openness that allowed me to understand the challenges some start-ups are facing.

External Challenges
Most challenges were attributed to external factors like retailers' willingness to adopt, consumer shopping behavior, ingredient prices, and competition. I personally think there are ways to be less dependent on these factors if the product better matches customer needs.

Better Products, Smaller Ingredient Lists
Taking a closer look at the products, I found that the quality of taste is generally improving compared to similar products of the past. I tasted very good Feta cheese, vegan eggs, and the Beta-fish tuna alternative is pretty awesome. So, is the product itself not the problem?

But What Do Customer Think?
In the end, there is the product and the user, and the user should in my opinion be the starting point. The product needs to meet user needs—an offer that suits current beliefs, habits, and routines or resonates with deeper aspirations for which users are willing to change their current habits. You can develop a vegan egg, but what if vegans do not like eating eggs? Or what if the health conscious vegan does not want an ultra-processed alternative to a natural product?

Can It Be Done Easier?
Everything about product innovation and marketing strategy gets easier if there is a clear understanding of what your customer wants, who they are, what are their believes and where they are. Many methods and tools can uncover user needs and specify the target group and concrete use cases for the product. This saves development costs and sets you up with a targeted communication strategy when the product is launched.

Too Late for Products That Are Already Launched?
For launched products, I would focus on a communication strategy that is adapted to user needs and specific use cases. Understanding all the possible touchpoints between the product and the user will provide insights and a structured approach to communication, campaigns, or collaborations (e.g., suitable nutrition platforms, cooking appliances, existing communities, matching food products).

Low Hanging Fruit
Knowing your customer and the full experience of your product it is also easier to develop and communicate some key recipes and preparation strategies of your food product matching the food habits in a particular market. Specific cooking appliances can be a perfect match with your products and some cooking appliances brands are eager to collaborate with food brands. Cooking demonstration can have a big impact for seeking potential business partners and increase the awareness of your product. Collaborate with food designer who can perfection the storyboard of you demo so that cooking presentations are fluent, easy and impactful to showcase crucial selling points of your product.

Part of the Food Start-up Curriculum
Ideally, the user-focused journey starts during conceptualization or at least earlier in the innovation process, so development is more focused and effective. This ensures the scale-up phase is approached with a clear, structured plan once the product is on the shelf. As an Industrial Design Engineer from Delft, I am accustomed to having the user focus as a key aspect of the innovation process—in fact, it is leading. Therefore, I believe it is a non-negotiable part of the food start-up process.

What is User-Focused Design?
For any part of the innovation process there should be a check if the user is on board. There is a set of research and design methods available for any case and step of the innovation process. The results and conclusions are a direct input for business decisions, development focus and marketing strategy.

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