Try­ing to pa­tent food prod­uct isn’t a recipe for suc­cess

Irish Independent - Business Week - - Brendan Keenan - With Fear­gal Quinn

Q AI PRO­DUCE a food prod­uct from a re­ally unique recipe and am hav­ing good suc­cess with it. How do I go about patent­ing the recipe and for­mu­la­tion to pre­vent oth­ers copy­ing it? IN­TEL­LEC­TUAL prop­erty (IP) is the aim of ev­ery new food busi­ness. If you are pro­duc­ing a prod­uct that has some to­tally unique in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, then you will prob­a­bly make a lot of money if there is con­sumer de­mand for the prod­uct.

Sadly, in the ma­jor­ity of food prod­ucts, you can­not pa­tent a recipe al­though some­times if there is a very sci­en­tific process or in­gre­di­ent within it, you might just have a chance, but it is a very rare oc­cur­rence. I doubt if that is an op­tion open to you from the in­for­ma­tion you have pro­vided. What is cer­tainly open to you and to ev­ery other busi­ness, is an op­por­tu­nity to trade­mark your brand. This will al­low you to work fast on build­ing a brand within this new and ex­cit­ing area and get­ting cus­tomers to see you as the ‘leader’ within this space.

In this in­stance, it is your brand-build­ing that pro­tects your prod­uct and re­gard­less of oth­ers copy­ing the recipe, they can’t copy your brand.

You may also be fa­mil­iar with the PGI process (pro­tected ge­o­graph­i­cal in­di­ca­tion) which is a Euro­pean des­ig­na­tion given to prod­ucts which can demon­strate that they are as­so­ci­ated with a par­tic­u­lar re­gion. The Water­ford Blaa is a good ex­am­ple. It re­ceived PGI Sta­tus in 2013. That meant that only bak­eries within this area, pro­duc­ing bread in a par­tic­u­lar way could call the prod­uct by this name. You will also see sim­i­lar with cheeses, cham­pagne, etc. That is an­other way to pro­tect a prod­uct used by some food com­pa­nies. Use the unique­ness of your recipe to quickly drive con­sumer in­ter­est first mover ad­van­tage while build­ing a strong brand and this will go a long way to pro­tect­ing your busi­ness.

QI PRO­DUCE an ar­ti­san food prod­uct and have sup­plied sev­eral spe­cial­ity re­tail­ers for the last two years. I need to ex­pand but a num­ber of my ex­ist­ing clients have made it clear that if I ap­pear on su­per­mar­ket shelves, they will no longer stock my prod­uct. Can you ad­vise me? WHAT you have de­scribed is a com­mon haz­ard of sup­ply­ing re­tail­ers in any sec­tor, and not con­fined to the spe­cial­ity re­tail­ers. Most store own­ers, and trade buy­ers like to sup­port new startup busi­nesses. In re­turn for this, they like, for as long as pos­si­ble, that the pro­ducer would stay work­ing with that re­tailer.

The prob­lem comes with the need for the busi­ness to grow. While you are very grate­ful for any list­ings at the be­gin­ning, there is also the re­al­i­sa­tion for you that to stay in busi­ness,

Ayou need to take on new cus­tomers. It is down to a com­mer­cial de­ci­sion on your be­half. What are the num­bers telling you? Will you sell far greater amounts of stock by ex­pand­ing your route to mar­ket? It doesn’t have to be a “guil­lo­tine” type of de­ci­sion. You may for ex­am­ple be able to leave some of the range ex­clu­sive with some of your ex­ist­ing cus­tomers and de­velop new prod­ucts for the wider mar­kets. I even know some pro­duc­ers who have a brand for the spe­cial­ity re­tail sec­tor, and then a sep­a­rate brand for main­stream su­per­mar­kets – though there are some chal­lenges.

I would also en­cour­age you to ex­plore ar­eas like the food ser­vice sec­tor as an­other rev­enue op­por­tu­nity which might de­fer the need to lose any cus­tomers in the short term. In sum­mary, it is prob­a­ble that you will be deal­ing with most re­tail­ers in the mar­ket even­tu­ally. A lot is about tim­ing, who you deal with and when you start forg­ing new re­la­tion­ships.

It also re­quires a lit­tle bit of brav­ery and con­fi­dence when the needs of the busi­ness de­mand greater vol­ume than ex­ist­ing trade cus­tomers can give you.

Send your small busi­ness ques­tions to him­self@fear­galquinn.ie

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