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The Business of Food

by Jennifer Barney


Where do you play?
2-min read

A lot of new brands like to say they are category creators. This is doing you a disservice if you’re not. The reason is: loss of credibility. 
Understanding your role in the category will help explain to investors and buyers why your products expect to sell. It is the support you provide for meeting product/market fit
Where do you play?
  • Product Innovation
  • Category Expansion
  • Packaging Innovation
  • Category Creation 
Buyers are trying to decide if they should kick something else out to give you a shot. They want to grow their categories and your job is to help convince them. If you say you are creating a new category and you’re not, you can’t have the conversation you need to have.
Same with investors. Investors need to decide if they are going to invest in you or the next guy in the zoom waiting room. 
Being very crisp on your role in the category will help buyers and investors connect the dots to your total addressable market and market potential (see last week’s post).
Let’s look at some examples.
Chobani peanut butter
What: Whey fortified peanut nutrient spread with a mission-based business model
Category: Nut butters
Segment: Peanut butter
Product Innovation: taking something old and making it new
Wildwonder sparkling drink 
What: Gut health carbonated beverage with unique flavors and combination of health benefits
Category: Beverages
Segment: Sparkling flavored water
Category Expansion: new flavors/benefits/claims to extend category offerings 
Vital Farms sous vide egg bites
What: You’ve been getting these at Starbucks for a while; now it’s packaged and at the grocery store
Category: Refrigerated breakfast
Segment: Protein snacks
Packaging Innovation: new formats/pack size/sustainable options
Brave Robot “animal-free” ice cream
What: Real dairy ice cream that is animal free; not vegan or animal based, but real dairy by cellular fermentation
Category: Ice cream
Segment: Alternative dairy (for now)
Category Creation: a whole new way of making something, or a whole new thing, and owning it by naming it
A category creator will carve out a place for themselves once the market has been established. I imagine Perfect Day, supplier and partner to The Urgent Company (maker of Brave Robot), will deploy their animal-free dairy ingredient to brands across entire dairy categories to create an animal-free category. 
Own your role in the category and be the best at it!
All my best,
I get into it on this week's The Modern Acre podcast hosted by 5th gen California Farmers Tim & Tyler Nuss (who have built tech startups and food brands too). Don't miss these clips:
  • 5 min - my take on startup valuations & Barney Butter founding
  • 13 min - product/market fit & best way to get into stores
  • 22 min - dairy PF Ranch & brand ReThink Ice Cream shout out!
  • 30 min - founder strength
  • 31 min - my Hot Take on Ag / climate change & carbon credits
  • 33 min - Bowles Farming shout out!
  • 36  min - plant based proteins - what's important to know
I'd love to hear from you - get in touch at

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