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Shelf Life

Got a great food product? Here's a winning recipe for getting it into consumers' hands.

This story appears in the August 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Take a peek into the average American's grocery cart, and you're likely to find such a wide variety of food products that you may wonder how they could possibly all be linked to the food chain. According to the consumer foods trade magazine New Product News, 13,266 new food products were introduced to supermarkets in 1996. And that's not counting the number of new comestibles lining the shelves of specialty, gourmet and health-food stores; gift basket shops; farmers' markets; delicatessens; restaurants; county fairs; caterers; and even department stores. Nor does the figure include specialty products sold via mail order catalogs, from airline dinner menus, or from an increasing number of sites on the Internet.

When it comes to food, it seems, Americans can't get enough on their plates. But that doesn't mean they will eat--or buy--just anything. "The consumer is fickle," says Stephen Hall, author of From Kitchen to Market: Selling Your Gourmet Food Specialty (Upstart Publishing) and president of Food Marketing International, a food consulting firm in Tucson, Arizona. "Successfully positioning your product so it appeals to the consumer is very complex--it has to do with price, packaging, where it is on the shelf, how it looks and its content."

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