As we all know, Amazon is the top eCommerce platform, bringing in $232 billion in net sales annually. It is a must-have platform for protein bar entrepreneurs looking to get started. If not, they risk losing the opportunity to put their products in front of the eyes of 197 million people each month. But besides selling, did you know you can use Amazon to validate your product development process? There’s a new trend among food entrepreneurs where they use Amazon as an incubator to grow and perfect their product before launching it to mass retail. Here is how you can use Amazon as an incubator to launch your brand too.
What is an MVP?
MVP stands for “minimum viable product,” a concept that is often utilized by tech startups. It is the bare minimum of your product; a prototype developed only with the core features needed to be “usable” by your target audience. The primary purpose of using an MVP is to test the market, observe if people find value in your offering, and find ways to enhance it to delight more customers.
The main way to improve your MVP is through customer feedback. This feedback will dictate the areas you need to improve or the features to remove. In theory, the MVP phase will help you zero into that “perfect product” since you will better understand what your target audience truly values from your product and whether it will succeed in the marketplace when you test.
What is an MVP for a Protein Bar Brand?
Although tech startups mostly utilize MVPs, food startups can also use the concept as part of their product development process. For example, protein bar company RXBar launched with an MVP to validate the market need, which they continuously perfected, both in terms of formula and branding. As a result, it has become one of the most innovative protein bar brands in the market.
So what does an MVP look like for a protein bar, or any nutritional snack? As a bare-bones version, it should execute your offering’s core benefit and, most importantly, be consumable. But to guide you, here are some aspects you should focus on when building and testing an MVP for your nutritional food product:
- Taste: Do not overlook your MVP’s taste. As food, the taste should get your ideal flavor across and be decent enough to get your customers to try the subsequent versions of your product.
- Product Form: Although rare, there may be times when the original form you pitched is not ideal for your market. For example, an on-the-go audience may prefer nut-butter filled protein bites over a protein bar. So, in these instances, testing your product form can provide valuable insight.
- Nutritional Value: To check if there is a market need for your snack, your MVP should deliver the main nutritional benefit. If your protein bar is for the keto market, your MVP should be low carb and high in fats.
- Price: 82% of Amazon customers consider price to be an essential factor. Since a pricing strategy is critical to your brand’s future success, take the time to determine if your customers find your prices reasonable.
- Packaging Design: Although you do not need a fully designed package for your MVP, it should at least be branded with your name. If you want to test your design, try to print small batches since you may need to change colors and formats on the fly.
When building your minimum viable product, avoid investing too much time and effort. There is no need to fully flesh out the nutritional snack at this stage since you will need to adapt and revamp your product based on feedback quickly.
Why Should You Use Amazon to Test an MVP of Your Protein Bar?
At this point, you should know the importance of feedback to the MVP phase. But the question that remains is how you can receive the feedback you need. Luckily, Amazon is the perfect platform to do this because buyers on Amazon are always posting reviews. In fact, 53% of consumers leave reviews if they liked the product. This makes Amazon a great way to get feedback fast.
Not to mention, using Amazon as your testing platform means that you don’t need to build out your brand’s infrastructure completely. All you need is a seller’s account and a trademarked brand name to get up and running quickly. Of course, you will need a finalized website, brand identity, and growth plan before you can officially launch your product. However, for an MVP, an Amazon account and a small protein bar batch will suffice.
Essentially, incubating your product on Amazon is the fastest way to prep you and your brand for mass-market launch. This eCommerce platform allows you to set your brand up for success using factual data - before going to scale. You have the rare opportunity to dial into what customers like or hate about your nutritional snack, bringing you one step closer to your “successful product.”
One quick tip to using Amazon as an incubator is not underestimating the importance of a “first impression.” Most of the time, all it takes is one bad experience for an Amazon customer to set your protein bar aside forever and proclaim their reason why to the world. To overcome this, the MVP of your protein product must be at least somewhat enjoyable so customers will be inclined to give it another chance when you release your next protein bar iteration.
How to Use Amazon to Test an MVP of Your Protein Bar
With all this information, the next step is to create a manageable plan for testing your minimum viable product on Amazon. To help you get started, follow this simple workflow:
- Partner with the right co-manufacturer and co-packer: Before entering the MVP phase, find the right contract manufacturer. The right partner will support a small minimum order quantity to empower you and your brand. That way, you can work with your protein bar co-packer to produce new batches quickly based on the feedback you gathered to test the market continuously.
- Build an MVP: Work with your co-manufacturer to formulate and manufacture the first iteration of your product. Again, make sure it hits the taste and core nutritional goals you envisioned.
- Test on Amazon: Create your Amazon account with your MVP as the main product. There isn’t a need to create a storefront yet; remember, you are just there to better understand whether your product aligns with your consumer base’s needs.
- Gather feedback: Wait a couple of months to secure enough data. This feedback will become your “North Star” and guide you on the next steps you need to take to improve your prototype.
- Work with your co-manufacturer: Relay feedback to your manufacturer. Work with them to absorb this feedback and create a plan of action, whether that means creating a new formula or changing the packaging.
- Repeat: Launch the new version on your Amazon account again and repeat steps 3-5. See what sort of feedback comes back and use that feedback to iterate a newer and better version.
- Launch to mass retail: Once you have perfected your nutritional snack (and created a solid brand identity), your brand is ready to hit mass retail. Work with food brokers and distributors to get your validated protein snack into the hands of retailers.
To successfully develop and launch a new nutritional brand, you need to test your idea’s viability first. One of the simplest and most effective ways to do this is through Amazon, the world’s most popular eCommerce platform. Not only do you gain access to a huge customer base on Amazon, but you also gain access to a group of people inclined to provide feedback, both positive and negative. This makes Amazon a valuable source of customer data and a tool that all agile brands should have in their toolkit.