Posted July 23, 2013 5:47 pm by with 0 comments

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supermarket superstarSupermarket Superstar is a new business competition series on Lifetime.  It’s like Shark Tank meets Cupcake Wars and its loaded with great lessons about small business branding.

The series revolves around amateur chefs who think their original product deserves shelf space in a major grocery store. Last night’s premiere episode was all about cakes. The queen of cookies Debbi Fields was on hand to mentor the contestants, along with celebrity chef Michael Chiarello and branding expert Chris Cornyn.

Unlike most cooking shows, this one isn’t all about how the food tastes. In this show, it’s about the brand. There’s only one judge, Tom Dahlen, the buyer for A&P supermarkets. Impress him and you’re on your way.

The first round is the taste test. Latrice presented a peach cobbler cake – a vanilla cake stuffed with peach compote and topped with a crunchy crust. The judges loved it but suggested she flip it upside down and sell it in the frozen food aisle.

Melissa came in with her cookie cupcake concept – a butterscotch and chocolate chip cookie with cupcake icing. She creates these cakes with kids at baking parties so the judges suggest turning her product into a baking kit. They also tell her that butterscotch is a bad seller. Go chocolate.  She refuses.

Sean came in with an idea too unique for the grocery store – cocktail cakes. These little cakes contain the equivalent of four shots of alcohol in each serving. That made the price point over $9 a piece and because of the liquor content they could only be sold to people over 21.  The judges tell him to burn off the alcohol and add alcohol flavorings. He also refuses.

In the second round, the cooks get a chance to reinvent their products using a unit price calculator to keep them in line. Then a focus group is called in to taste and judge. The price and the alcohol content sends Sean home.

supermarket superstar 2In the final round, the contestants work with a designer from 99Designs to come up with a brand logo and packaging. This is where it really gets interesting. I learned so much about branding when I watched the packaging expert give his critique.  In this round, there were two big takeaways.

1. Think about the future of your brand when creating a logo.  Latrice was going to put her signature flavor, a Georgia peach In her logo but worried that it would be confusing when she expanded the line to include apple and other fruits. In the end, the buyer said she should have pushed the peach angle because it was the unique twist that set her apart. Oh well.

2. Create an experience not just a package.  Melissa’s cookie kit came to life when the designer added the words “Party in a Box” to the handle. She’s not just selling a cookie mix, she’s selling a fun activity and that made all the difference.

I also learned that while originality is interesting, bucking the trend is a bad idea. The buyer walked away from Melissa because butterscotch anything is too hard to sell. Latrice won the week. Her prize, $10,000 in cash and $100,000 worth of product development services.

At the end of the competition, all of the winners will be back for a chance at the big prize, their own display space at A&P stores all over the nation.

If you’re thinking about starting a business or you’re working on a start-up (food or not), check out Supermarket Superstar Monday’s at 10 on Lifetime. It’s entertaining and educational.