The Foodpreneur #008
Welcome to our second edition of the Community Corner for The Foodpreneur. In this segment, you’ll hear from real businesses in this industry, each of whom will explain things that helped them grow, or mistakes they’ve made. If you’d like to contribute to this segment, we’d love to hear from you, too!
This week’s Community Corner is brought to you by Simple Nutrition Meals, a heat-and-eat business operating out of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Here’s what Kate Gutwald, the founder of Simple Nutrition Meals, had to say about following trends that are right for your business and your customers:
Simple Nutrition Meals – Evergreen Diets vs. Trendy Diets: Why we picked a side
There’s a lot to be said for following trends, and it works for a lot of industries. Businesses need to compete for eyeballs and customers, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with taking advantage of popular opinion—in fact, doing so at the right time can be a really good thing for your business. That said, when we got started at Simple Nutrition, we decided to forego those types of diet trends (Keto, for example, has been the latest to really blow up in popularity) and stick to what we call an “evergreen menu”—that is, one that is based on the kind of healthy food that appeals to a broader audience, both now and in the future. Let’s talk about why we picked a side.
1. Customer health
While a lot of what some people uncharitably label “fad diets” are harmless—regardless of their impact on weight loss—many of them are absolutely not healthy to maintain in the long term. To use the earlier example, the Keto diet is one that is intended to be a short term solution to rapidly lose weight, not a lifestyle that someone should maintain indefinitely. The idea is to follow it for a relatively short period, until you hit your weight loss goal, then switch to a more balanced diet to maintain your weight once you’ve hit it.
The consequences of staying on such a diet for too long can be severe, with vitamin deficiency and a number of other health concerns that should give someone pause, especially if the dieter in question has underlying health issues.
These types of dietary trends can and have helped countless people over many years, of course, and we don’t deny that at all. But, without long-term impact studies that examine these diets’ effects, it’s not something we want to necessarily support with our food.
Instead, we focused our menu on more general health, with balanced food that will keep our customers coming back. It’s in keeping with our own health ideology to support an overall healthy, positive lifestyle, and our customers have responded to that—and it can make good business sense, too. After all, there are more potential customers who are looking for food that’s overall good for them than specifically looking for keto-friendly food.
2. Short-term vs. long-term
Similarly, a lot of these diet trends are, again, designed to be short-term solutions. Someone on a keto diet will typically follow it for several months, hit their target weight, then switch to a maintenance approach. That makes it a challenge to grow a loyal customer base.
Ideally, businesses in our industry add new customers on top of existing ones, but when your niche has almost a built-in customer expiration date, that adds a level of difficulty to making that growth possible. If your average customer follows your niche diet for about three months, then that customer needs to be replaced with a new one every ninety days just to maintain your current volume, let alone grow.
This is more of a business challenge than an ideological one. Of course it’s perfectly doable, and a lot of businesses handle it without too much trouble, but it’s certainly a challenge not everyone is ready for. When you consider that a lot of businesses in our industry are regional, it can be a real challenge to grow the way you want to when your average customer lifetime value tends to be a bit lower.
That isn’t to say there’s no benefit at all to sticking to a diet trend niche. The biggest one I can think of is that a lot of your marketing is much easier. Think about the pitch for a meal prep business with a keto-friendly menu—all you need to do to express your core value is mention that, and customers will understand why they’d want to make a purchase.
That aside, our business goal has always been about long-term growth, and a wider audience with lower churn is a big part of that.
3. Crowded niches
The last point here is that diet trends typically attract a lot of competition. The more trendy it gets, the more business interests get involved. When you’re a regional business like ours, one of the most important aspects for success is what’s known as “owning your niche.” When your potential customer base thinks about your niche, you want your business to come to mind.
If you were to search for keto-friendly heat-and-eat businesses in your area, odds are very good you’ll find a lot more than one, especially now. More of these businesses are opening up, too, and that makes it harder for anyone within that niche to succeed. In short: competition tends to be more dangerous the narrower your niche is.
While a broader audience will naturally attract more competition, there’s also a lot more room for businesses to grow. We see this in the traditional restaurant industry all the time as an example. Even though there may be a number of similar types of restaurants in the same area that are technically competing against one another, there are enough customers to go around.
Visit Simple Nutrition Meals’ main website and immerse yourself in their authentic approach to connecting with customers. Follow their Instagram account to stay updated with their latest content and see firsthand how they embrace making food quick, convenient, and healthy!