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Shelf Life

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

By Guen Sublette

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Take a peek into the average American's grocery cart, andyou're likely to find such a wide variety of food products thatyou may wonder how they could possibly all be linked to the foodchain. According to the consumer foods trade magazine NewProduct News, 13,266 new food products were introduced tosupermarkets in 1996. And that's not counting the number of newcomestibles lining the shelves of specialty, gourmet andhealth-food stores; gift basket shops; farmers' markets;delicatessens; restaurants; county fairs; caterers; and evendepartment stores. Nor does the figure include specialty productssold via mail order catalogs, from airline dinner menus, or from anincreasing number of sites on the Internet.

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

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