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An interview with Tessa Stuart
An interview with Tessa Stuart
We recently had the privilege to ask Tessa Stuart some questions around what it is she does and her top tips for brands starting out.
We recently had the privilege to ask Tessa Stuart some questions around what it is she does and her top tips for brands starting out.
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For those of you that don't know who Tessa Stuart is, she is a point of purchase shopper researcher, interviewing hundreds of food shoppers a year right there as they are buying in supermarkets. She works with global brands like Unilever and challenger brands like Jimmy’s Iced Coffee and Pip & Nut, to name just a few. In brief she helps test their products with shoppers for stand-out and appeal on the supermarket shelves.

Tessa also offers affordable branding messaging 'power hours' for food and drink start-ups and has two best-selling food business books. Packed: The Food Entrepreneur’s Guide, and Flying Off The Shelves, both on Amazon.

If you've been in the food and drink entrepreneur circle for a while, you would mostly likely have bumped into Tessa by now. As she has been a speaker at Enterprise Nation, Bread & Jam (food business bootcamps and Festival), and is an industry expert at Food & Drink Wales Welsh Government events.
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In a sentence Tessa, what is it you do?

I am a shopper stalker; I watch and find out how and why shoppers choose to buy the food and drink brands that they put into their trolleys.


And how do you do this?

I do this by interviewing a minimum of 50 shoppers per project, in the aisles, in the category, as they make their choices. These insights are then shared with the client to increase shelf stand-out or revise any aspects of the product or pack communication that are confusing to shoppers.


Why is this important to become a successful young brand?

Great stand-out and confidence on shelf in stores or in online channels is crucial to attract shopper attention and trial.


At what point should a brand come to you for advice?

My best-selling book Packed is a primer for all food and drink start-ups to understand crucial points before they begin their journey.


What are common mistakes do you see with brands starting out and can you advise us on how to dodge them and not make the same mistakes?

I often see brands cramming messages onto the pack as if it was a billboard on the street. This will cause confusion for potential consumers. If you aren’t clear about the key "why buy" of your brand, shoppers definitely won’t be.


What piece of work are you most proud of?

I’ve been most proud of working with food businesses who haven’t done any previous formal customer research and making a real difference to their businesses through consumer insights: Pip & Nut, Moju Drinks, Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, innocent drinks in their very early days, Rude Health, Wahaca and many others.
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Tell us about a brand challenge that you’ve helped overcome which was pivotal in the success of the brand.

Rude Health got a call to be listed in Tesco with their granola, and urgently wanted to understand how their granola branding needed to look in a supermarket shelf. We mocked up packs and showed them to consumers and understood what was important to them. This allowed Rude Health to compete better with huge players in the cereal category.


It’s easy to get bogged down by focusing on the wrong things. When should someone know when to focus their energy elsewhere?

If you don’t have an adequate margin right from the off, you will never have a functioning viable food or drink business. You won’t get magically more profitable later on.


We’ve recently written a blog discussing the question of when is it time to rebrand. What are your thoughts and at what point in a brand’s journey should they come to seek you out?

Key times to rebrand might be when moving into a national retailer from independent stores, to give you more vavavoom on shelf. And also to have a convincing confident look for your pitches to supermarket buyers to persuade them to list you.

I can help at a much earlier stage with consumer insights drawn from my experience to assess the key brand messages you need to highlight on pack.


Can you give us some parting advice for a brand just starting out?

Spend time getting your head around the money; will enough people buy your product at a price where you can have a profitable business?

Join the Food Hub Facebook group for a supportive community to ask questions.


And where can people find you to stay up to date with your handy tips?

My website tessastuart.com
On Twitter: @Tessa_Stuart
On LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/tessastuart
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