Monday, July 23, 2007

Secret Recipe

This is another in my series of articles of "So You Want to be a Sauce Mogul?"

Everybody thinks they have a secret recipe that will turn them into sauce moguls. They keep the recipe for their sauce a closely guarded secret, terrified that someone will find out how they make it.

I'll let you in on a secret. The recipe doesn't matter. Not one bit.

Of course, your product has to meet a certain standard. But frankly, Kraft sells a lot of Bullseye Barbeque Sauce, and it's hardly the best available. It's not about what's inside. Your label will include your ingredient list, and any good chef can look at the list of ingredients, taste it, and come up with a reasonable substitute pretty quickly. It's about what's on the outside.

Here's an experiment. Go buy 10 cases of the best barbeque sauce you can find. Whatever you think comes the closest to your own perfect, secret recipe. Put that sauce in new bottles, with a new label on it. Put your price at half of what you paid for it. Now go out and sell it. Work really hard. If you're going to be a successful sauce entrepreneur, this will be your life, so give it a good shot. In 30 days, you'll be lucky if you've sold as much as Kraft sells in a day in one city.

The difference is marketing. The Kraft sauce was already on the grocery shelf. It has distribution channels and branding. People know about it. That's the key to success. You can have the greatest sauce in the world, but if you don't have the reach and distribution, you'll go nowhere.

The next time you're at the grocery store, take note of the amount of shelf space devoted to the mediocre national brands versus the local brands. If it's like most places, the big national brands have about 80% of the shelf space. A local brand is lucky if their section is three bottles wide.

That's not to say that there aren't plenty of wonderful "unknown" sauces out there. We started The Carolina Sauce Company to promote sauces that most people hadn't heard of. The quality of product available on the standard grocery shelf is pretty poor. They're just conglomerations of high fructose corn syrup, water, ketchup, and liquid smoke. There are all kinds of hidden gems out there produced to a much higher standard.

The reason you have to go looking for the hidden gems is marketing.

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