Is your Invention a Food Product?

invention how to develop a food product

invention how to develop a food product

Is your Idea actually good?

This is a standard question for any product idea. It’s a combination of new/better as well as marketable and feasible from a manufacturing point of view.


Are you in line with the trends? Is it what the market wants? Or better yet, is the product ahead of the market? Does it have that WOW factor?

What industry or segment are you going into…are consumers within that segment open to new products?

Trends: Organic, Omegas, Low Carb, High Protein, Vegan, Paleo etc

Is it profitable?

Food Products are a massive industry. Should people ditch the food products and eat more whole foods? Absolutely. That said, for the millions of people “on the go”, there is often little choice but to look to convenience products to help us get the fuel our bodies need within the time available. So we look to food products to save us time and effort and for that, there is a price to be paid.

Niche products can mean big business. According to the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, in 2010 specialty food will account for $50.3 billion in sales through stores, and another $12.7 billion through restaurants – accounting 13.1 percent of all food sales.

Best way to keep it profitable? Keep it simple! Use simple ingredients.

Work with a manufacturer as early as possible and ask them for input on how you could reduce your costs: what processes and ingredients have the highest value or are easiest to work with? Removing these roadblocks early in your process is undoubtedly a good idea.

You’ll need a Solid Plan

Even before whipping up your next batch and heading to the weekend crafts markets, you should take a few minutes to run through some of the basic numbers ad needs behind your product opportunity. This may not be a full-on business plan to start, but you essentially want to play Devil’s Advocate and find reasons your product won’t work…it’s much better to do this now than later on when you’ve sunk a bunch of time and money into an idea and then realize there are inherent problems with it.

Know your Costs

You’ll need to buy ingredients, pay a co-packer, do microbiological testing, shipping, packaging, warehouse storage, etc.

Avoid perishables – Say no to Fresh meats, dairy, prepared salads etc. Your sales channels will be upset when the product don’t sell!

Go for Added Value – this ties in closely with marketability. You want to create perceived value in your product. Give people what they can’t get elsewhere.

Ideas on designing a profitable food product:

Know the market

As mentioned above, you’ll want to take a look at the trends and market size. There are several tools to do this with, from government databases to simply Google Trends. The real secret is to take the time to sit down and actually do the work.

Know the Process

Food Products are an old business and no matter where what country your product will be sold in, there will be a process to be followed and requirements for you to consider.

  • Testing
  • Insurance
  • Organic Certification (if applicable)
  • Certifications of the processing facility … can’t just be your kitchen 🙁

Who are the big players in the market?

This helps you know who your competition could be as well as who you might license your product to once you’ve proven your formula and validated the market and especially if your product has traction.

Can a food product be Patented?

Sure! A recipe or method of preparing a food product could be patentable, but there needs to be what’s called an “inventive step”. You can’t simply mix two ingredients together and say you’ve invented something. So unless your recipe has something very special in it, you may not have a chance at a patent.

Keep it a Trade Secret

Sometimes a trade secret can be worth more than a patent. Firstly, a patent expires after 20 years and after that, the world is free to make and use your invention all they want. Plus, once a patent is issued, it becomes public knowledge. If your recipe could be copied and modified by anyone (see “work-arounds”), then it may be worth more just to keep it a secret. That’s where the term Trade Secret comes in. The most famous example of a trade secret is the coca-cola formula. To protect their investment, they just made sure nobody could copy it exactly. Coke also has numerous other Design Patents and Trademarks on their logos and the Shape of their classic glass bottle…but that’s another topic.

Trademark the name of your Food Product instead

If your idea is great but you can’t get a patent and if you want to create a valuable asset, then a Trademark may be the way to go.  You can develop the absolute best names for this type of product and register trademarks on those name. This way, you can produce the product yourself but also have an asset which could be licensed to a willing licensee – maybe one of those big guys

Find a Food Product Consultant

Food products are a very specific industry with very specific requirements and a standard process (depending on what country you’re in). Once you get to a point where you’ve tested demand and you’re pretty sure you’ve got a winning idea on your hands, it’s a good idea to sit down with someone who knows the industry inside and out, with a proven history within the niche.  Interview several consultants and make sure you “connect” with them. Creating food gets personal, and you need to find someone you can trust.

Keep it secret, keep it safe!

Aside from your product testing and validation, once you start talking to people in the “industry”, you should approach it with a business-like manner. You can do this by asking your consultant and the companies you are approaching to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) also known as a Confidentiality Agreement. Some manufacturers won’t want to sign it because it opens them up to various legal liabilities for ideas they already have and ending up in court is nobody’s cup of tea, but your consultant should definitely be willing to sign one.



That’s it! Brining a food product to market is no easier or harder than any other type of product, but it’s a specific process and the best way to move forward is to validate as early as possible, be business-like in your approach and commit to learning as much as possible early on. Being well informed and organized will only help you … and even if your current idea flops, you’ll be that much more prepared for the next time a great idea pops in your head!


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