Tending the grassroots: The importance of early adopters in NPD

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Tending the grassroots: The importance of early adopters in NPD

Related tags: Nutrition

Building a grassroots following is crucial for establishing an innovative food product, says the co-founder of meal replacement firm Ambronite.

The ‘organic drinkable meal’ company started as an experiment among six friends at university together in Finland, Simo Suoheimo told FoodNavigator. The powdered meal packs contain oats, nuts, herbs, berries and grains, and come with a shaker to quickly make a 500 calorie meal, with no artificial preservatives or flavouring ingredients. One customer described the experience of the product as “like drinking a salad”, Suoheimo said.

“Ambronite started with our own frustration with being unable to find suitable products for a quick lunch,”​ he said. “Busy people and busy professionals are using different sub-par ingredients and sub-par products like nutrition bars and snacks…Could we include all the macro and micronutrients so you would never have to go for that snack bar or nutrition bar or cup of coffee around two minutes before a meeting?”

He said that with a company like Ambronite, which is far too small to compete with the likes of Procter & Gamble, “building a grassroots following around your product is key”​.

The company used crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to raise $100,000 from 40 countries and launched internationally last year. Since it first started shipping its finished products in 2013, Ambronite has grown at double digit rates each month.

The target market of ‘busy professionals’ is intentionally vague, allowing the company to attract a broad audience of consumers who want good quality ingredients even when in a hurry. “What we are trying to create here is a real meal option that won’t be nutritionally worse than a meal you would make in your own kitchen,” ​he said. “We are not trying to substitute everyone’s good meals.”

Business Leaders

A compelling mission

Suoheimo said early adopters were an important part of the product development process.

“Without our early adopters the product probably wouldn’t exist today,”​ he said, adding that smaller companies often can get to market faster than larger ones. “You can see the new breed of new products developing from smaller companies with a very compelling mission and an audience that is willing to support them.”

When asked what advice he would give to other small companies starting out, he said: “Don’t be afraid to ask for advice; don’t be afraid to ask for help. …We have been forced to gather our own network of people to develop a new kind of food.”

One of these people was a PhD researcher looking at space applications and meal replacements, he said.

“Even as a larger company, you can’t find this kind of people without reaching out and asking for help…I think this extends to Fortune 500 companies as well.”

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