August 23, 2018

Can You Stop A Big Retailer From Knocking Off Your Idea?

I recently taught a food business class at a college local to where I live and at the end of the class one student asked whether or not there was anything you could do to prevent a retailer from knocking off your idea. She mentioned that it had happened to a friend of hers. A big retailer had been carrying her product but then created a similar ‘private label’ product and the original product was put out of business.

It’s a question I’ve been mulling over since. During class I mentioned that to the best of my knowledge, there is little you can do to actually protect the product idea itself as recipes and recipe concepts aren’t typically something you can get intellectual property protection for (to the best of my knowledge).

So what is a food entrepreneur with a great idea to do? The thing that came to find first and foremost was that having a strong marketing strategy that will help you quickly become known as the brand to trust for that type of product could help. A strong brand makes it harder – but not impossible – for competitors to create knock-offs of your idea and successfully sell them. The tough piece of that though is having enough money to be able to create such a successful marketing campaign. That being said, even if you only have a bit of money to put towards marketing then that’s something you should do.

The other thought I had was in regards to private label knockoffs specifically. The best thing you, as a brand, can do in this case is make sure that you are sold in a variety of different stores. I don’t just mean different locations of the same stores – but different stores altogether. The more varied your distribution the less chances that one store creating a private label knockoff is going to have a huge impact on your bottom line.

Trust me, it always stings to lose a retail client that you’ve worked hard to get. And I’m certainly not saying that building a diversified sales channel is easy by any stretch of the imagination. But if Retail A only makes up 10% of your sales then when they start selling a knockoff it will be less painful to your bottom line than if they account for 50% of your sales.

This is definitely a case of you not wanting to have all your eggs in one basket.

Related Articles: