Complex Products: Building Successful Brands

When I was at Snap Kitchen, we invested a lot of time in customer research to optimize complex products. We conducted persona interviews and looked carefully at how to cater to each one, whether they were fitness, trendy, foodie, etc. This enabled us to position ourselves strategically in the highly competitive food market.

To build brand loyalty, so much depends on quality, especially in the food industry. We also did a lot of broader market research. For instance, after studying our competitors on social media, reducing waste is something that resonates with customers. People didn’t like a lot of packaging, so we minimized this as much as possible.

When you hear and act upon customer concerns, it builds brand trust. Also, users appreciate the story of how the brand’s foundation and our commitment to giving back (e.g., food bank donations).

Taste Testing

How did we come up with new dishes? We looked at trends and direct customer feedback. We would talk to chefs and nutritionists, and we were the taste testers. Like software testing, Snap Kitchen would perform small tests and even give away meals in exchange for feedback. You have to be nimble, be willing to cut losses and move laterally if needed.

A lot of times, we saw folks buying a very regular, simple meal to decide if they liked us before trying more interesting meals. Those common standards are essential to have on your menu, and you have to do it right – especially with complex products like those in the food industry.

What Winners Do

What makes food companies succeed? In my opinion, those that seek the greater good seem to do better. For example, sweetgreen goes out of the way to find leaves that are nutritious but not typically thought of as food. In this way, they educate customers and eliminate environmental waste. To go the extra mile for the consumer, you have to listen to them in every sense – even when they seem to go off on tangents.

My most stressful experience? We came out with a meal subscription service which was based on specific lifestyles, such as keto, paleo, etc. We gave them a lot of flexibility and they loved it, but then a hurricane hit and food delivery services were shut down. Suddenly, we had to tell the customer, who placed an order for five days ago, that they couldn’t get their order. Sometimes too much customization can come back to haunt you.

 

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About the Speaker
Sushma Patel Zoellner
H-E-B Sr Director Product
Sushma Zoellner is a Senior Director of Product at HEB Digital - focused on building solutions that make it easy for millions of Texans to get the food and products they need on a daily basis. Prior to joining HEB, Sushma worked in the food tech space at Snap Kitchen, a healthy prepared food company. She also worked at small B2B startups and larger B2C companies like RetailMeNot. She also received her MBA and a BS in Computer Science from The University of Texas at Austin.

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