February 2019 - Jeffrey Spear


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February 2019 Edition

The Benefit of House-Branded Products
 Jeffrey Spear, President & Creative Director, Studio Spear

Brand building has become the holy grail of marketing and an essential component of business sustainability. When it comes to creating brand extensions, entrepreneurs in foodservice have found that cookbooks are valuable marketing tools and contribute favorably to their organization's bottom line.

February 2019 Edition

Similarly, chefs have found their sauces and special dishes are regularly requested by patrons for home use. When these requests become frequent enough, the manufacturing of branded packaged goods represents tremendous opportunity and can become a meaningful revenue-generating channel.

While recent trends, including endless programming from the Food Network and culinary events popping up all across the country, have influenced demand, the public appetite for restaurant and chef branded products is nothing new.

Back in 1924, Chef Ettore Boiardi opened Il Giardino d'Italia to rave reviews. In response to constant demand from patrons, the restaurant established a carry out business - packaging their acclaimed spaghetti and meatballs in milk bottles. Four years later, Chef Boyardee entered US supermarkets in shelf-stable cans and has been an enduring household brand ever since.

Another well-respected brand started in California back in the 1940's. At that time, Marie Callender was delivering freshly baked pies to area restaurants. By 1964, Marie's son opened his first restaurant featuring his mother's pies. Today, there are 80 Marie Callender's restaurants and a thriving frozen food line available from nearly every American supermarket.   

If you've walked the aisles at the Fancy Food, Natural Products and National Restaurant shows, you've noticed a growing number of chefs and restaurateurs eagerly presenting branded merchandise for national sales. While only scratching the surface, some of the names recently encountered include Mario Batali, Lillie's Q, Michael Chiarello, Jose Andres, Frontera Grill (Rick Bayless), Guy Fieri, Stubb's BBQ, Paul Prudhomme, Stephanie Izard and Delmonico's.   

In spite of the obvious glut of restaurant and chef branded merchandise, American's have an insatiable craving for new culinary experiences and are keeping up demand. Whether supply comes in the form of an ethnic cookbook, new culinary tools and gadgets for the kitchen or exotic packaged foods, there's no shortage of opportunity.


"It's always nice to have your 'own brand' on the table" says Delmonico's Corporate Chef - James "Jimmy" Canora. Having learned that launching house brands also has its challenges, Chef Jimmy also advises, "It takes perseverance, stamina, plenty of money and a lot of creativity to stay afloat... it can take years before you realize a profit."


Some of the issues you'll want to consider before launching your own house brands are:


Quantify and qualify your opportunity. Set expectations in terms of market penetration and sales well in advance of manufacturing. Based on these numbers, you can itemize market opportunities, manufacturing capacities, marketing budgets, wholesale pricing and distribution costs and subsequently, forecast earnings in the short and long term.

Confirm recipes and manufacturing specifications. Just because your restaurant makes a great sauce, dressing or condiment does not mean it is suitable for bulk manufacturing and retail packaging. To get things rolling, you'll need a licensed manufacturing facility of your own or a trustworthy co-packer. Additionally, your recipes will need to be tested, ingredients adjusted for commercial processing and finished products evaluated for both shelf life and FDA compliance.

There's no such thing as a dress rehearsal. Assuming you've done your homework, products should not be launched without fully conceived packages ready to hit the shelves. This also means that you have inventory in the warehouse and a distributor ready to sell. If you're not 100% ready to go, the outcomes will be disappointing.

Promotion is everything. With a never-ending stream of competitors vying for supermarket shelves, you'll need to attract the attention of both retailers and consumers and persuade them to become brand loyalists. As such, investments in compelling design, credible websites, influential public relations (including social media) and show-stopping displays at trade events make a whole lot of sense.

Ultimately, branded products provide opportunities for consumers to deepen their experience with your brand in the comfort of their own homes. Whether used on a daily basis, saved for special occasions or given as gifts, you have the opportunity to build new and lasting impressions affiliated with, yet apart from, the restaurant. Assuming the collective experiences created generate lasting and enjoyable outcomes, the overall value of your brand will be favorably enhanced.



Jeffrey Spear is the President & Creative Director of Studio Spear, a global branding agency specializing in food and beverage industries. Spear helps restaurateurs, retailers, chefs, producers, growers, and related industry specialists build and maintain powerful brands and brand experiences that are relevant, engaging and appealing to both trade and consumer audiences. Spear can be reached via email: jeff@studiospear.com or phone: 904 685 2135.