How market research helped me to create and manufacture my first product

The founder of premium milk start-up Milky Mooka explains why researching his industry was key to launching a commercially viable product

Fact File

Name: Jason Neish

Company: Milky Mooka Ltd

Started in: 2010

Company description: Milky Mooka is a premium UHT milk producer made with love, care, fresh ingredients and most importantly imagination 

Describe your start-up barrier

My main challenge was to understand an industry I knew nothing about. Each industry will have its individual challenges but as I’m sure you can imagine, for us, in the food manufacturing sector, the biggest challenge to date was finding a manufacturer.

Throughout the journey we dealt with the usual scenarios: emails not returned, calls not returned, companies wanting colossal amounts of investment etc.

How did you solve it and find the perfect manufacturer for your product?

  • Initially, I commissioned a business mentor for £50 a session. This proved useful at the beginning of the start-up process, as it gave me a clear outline of what I needed to do. In total, I spent £250 on mentoring but couldn’t justify spending any more than that. Organisations such as School for Social Entrepreneurs may offer the same service free of charge.
  • As well as receiving professional mentor advice, I also gained some insight from Andrew Howard of Beechdean Dairies when I initially wanted to produce ice cream.  He told me that ice cream is a saturated market and in his opinion, with 20-plus years’ experience,  as a newbie to the industry I’d have a better chance at success if I stuck to flavoured milk. This invaluable free advice from an expert in his field was priceless!
  • I then joined the British Library and used its research facilities. The Library had databases for practically everything, and business reports on the trends and movements of various markets. I personally retrieved a database of over 5,000 potential buyers (which I would need to update due to the fast pace in people movement in this industry) and discovered through reports published by market research house Mintel and stored at the Library, as well as some other information via the internet, how my intended product was trending across the globe. It was and is a growing demand.
  • Once I was sure of the market potential for my intended product, I researched online every milk producer in the UK. Unfortunately a lot of people didn’t get back to me, and the company I did find that was prepared to work with me only produced in cartons. I wanted bottles.
  • I attended the 2011 International Food and Drink Event (IFE) and just as I was leaving I found a manufacturer who worked with bottles based in Austria.
  • I spent a day at Reesheath College developing the recipe.
  • I travelled to Austria to meet and greet the people working on my produc.t
  • During this time I commissioned a design agency to work with. This is a very important, if not the most important, investment if you intend to develop a retail product, image is everything.
  • The whole process has taken about two years to achieve.

What was the outcome?

We now have an original, commercially viable product that has the ability to expand, due to the design work and a solid manufacturer.

What three key questions should other companies ask themselves before dealing with the issue?

  1. Have I chosen the right thing to do?  It is important to question this at various times along your journey even if it’s just for confirmation’s sake.
  2. Am I flexible enough to change where change may be required? For example, I started out thinking about producing ice cream, and ended up producing flavoured milk.
  3. How realistic am I being about my project? Sometimes we set our ambitions in an unrealistic way. Be honest with yourself.

What one piece of advice do you think others should take on board?

No matter what you are doing, you must maintain the belief in not only your product but also yourself, and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small.

Is there anything you would do differently?

I wouldn’t do anything differently because all the good things and bad things ultimately result in a learning experience. Website:www.milkymooka.co.uk

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