How do you build a stronger beverage business? Validate it!

So, you think you have the next winning beverage idea. You’ve come up with an innovative product that you are sure the market needs and wants. While a creative concept and unwavering passion can carry you far, not every brilliant beverage idea makes for a successful, sustainable business. In fact, according to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, of the more than 30,000 new products introduced every year, 95 percent fail.

Many beverage entrepreneurs put their heart and soul (and savings) into a new product before they have enough information to know if it’s a bet they should make. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if your beverage has what it takes before investing the resources to develop and launch?

While there’s no surefire way to predict which ideas will make it and which won’t, there are valuable checkpoints that will increase your odds of heading down and staying on the path towards a viable beverage business.

Start with A Feasibility Study

Beverage development is an exercise of creativity within the bounds of numerous constraints. In addition to meeting a market need, your product must align with layers of complex manufacturing, supply chain, and regulatory requirements. A feasibility study helps answer the question, “Can we successfully produce this beverage as we have designed it?”

During a feasibility study, a team of experts familiar with the industry’s opportunities and challenges helps you objectively look at your beverage’s potential for successful production, given your goals and budget. The study’s recommendations take into account everything from product type and liquid composition to claims, certifications, validation, and desired shelf life. A feasibility study can help you make informed decisions around packaging choices, initial run size, optimal distribution locations, and preferred contract packers.

The exercise is designed to move your beverage concept from a hypothetical scenario into the real world of formulation, sourcing, manufacturing, and certification. Along the way, you will uncover assumptions that lay beneath the surface of your idea and start to prove or disprove them with facts and data.

Some of the questions you might dive into as part of your feasibility study are:

  • Can I source my beverage’s ingredients and packaging on a commercial scale?
  • Is my preferred packaging viable for the liquid and manufacturing requirements of my product?
  • Will my product be ready to meet the requirements for GRAS, Whole Foods Compliance, Kosher, Organic, etc.?
  • How many co-packers can produce my product? Where are they located?

At the end of the feasibility study, you will know whether your current project scope is commercially feasible. The study will highlight factors that could hinder your success and recommend changes to improve your project’s likelihood of success on a commercial scale.

A feasibility study moves your beverage idea forward with focus. It provides the data and insights to justify continuing on the path you’ve started or pivot to a new route that is more likely to result in a profitable beverage business.

Fine Tune with A Pilot Run

Another valuable tool for smarter beverage product development is a pilot run. A pilot run, also known as a small-scale run, or small-scale production, lets you produce a small quantity of your beverage on licensed, industrial, commercial-grade equipment. A full-scale production run can cost upwards of $100-$200K. In contrast, a pilot run can cost a fraction of that.

But opting for a pilot run is not just about saving money; it also helps reduce risk. It is rare for the first run of any beverage to go perfectly with no unforeseen changes. A small-scale run lets you work through your production process and iron out any snags before investing in a large run. Your pilot run is your chance to catch anything from an incorrect Universal Product Code (UPC) to unexpected liquid changes during pasteurization without having to stop production or recall thousands of cases of product.

A good pilot facility will add expertise and value as another asset you can use to launch efficiently. Everything you learn during your pilot run will make your next levels of production smoother and more successful. You can leverage insights from your pilot run to more quickly and effectively find and contract with the right co-packer for your full-scale production run. And the polished look and accompanying testing and production data from a well-executed pilot run leave a positive impression of your business with investors, distributors, and retailers.

As an innovative beverage entrepreneur, your job is to skillfully usher your idea from concept to a profitable, scalable product. It is a path that many will travel, but few will complete. Learning to use the right validation tools at the right time will not only help you reduce unnecessary risk and build a better product, but it will also make your journey more enjoyable.

Choosing A Validation Partner
Just as important as the tools and methods you use is the team you work with. Digging into the details behind your beverage idea can be a daunting process, but it should be a positive experience. Surround yourself with people who have the expertise to guide you and the ingenuity to turn perceived barriers into opportunities.

BevSource’s beverage development experts and the pilot facility team at The Lab are seasoned beverage industry experts who have brought hundreds of new beverages to life. Whether you want someone to review and enhance your idea or prepare you for your first production run, BevSource and its state-of-the-art pilot facility, The Lab, are here to help you build a successful beverage business. Visit www.bevsource.com to learn more or click here to get started.