Pitch Lessons From Wannabe Sweet Treat Magnates

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Fancy a sneaky sweet treat? Here are a pair of homebakers hoping to grab a shot at the bigtime. For twenty episodes, Cooks To Market moved two new food items out their creator’s kitchen for the first time. They first tried to outsell each other at London’s touristy Covent Garden Market.

Here, the ‘Lamington’ pitched against ‘boozy cupcakes’.

How would you first pitch these to unknowing ears?

Here’s what the show revealed was said;

Lamingtons; they’re a light cube of vanilla sponge dipped in a chocolate icing and then rolled in desiccated coconut.

Cupcakes; but they’re cupcakes with a twist. They are mini-cupcakes and they are injected with alcohol. So they’re rather grown-up cupcakes.

Short and sweet. You might say. Yet pretty much the only thing good about them is their shared brevity.

Both get fixated on describing what they are. They are stuck firmly in ‘features’ mode. Techs ‘n Specs.

The cupcake pitch was slightly better. Mention of the ‘twist’ and ‘grown-up’ angle progress things a little.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the cupcakes duly made more profit on the day. Note, a full day’s trading in glorious West End weather and yet still only £170 profit. And that’s just GP too. Eish.

Cooks To Market is a decently constructed piece of food-business reality telly. Throughout contestants are advised by a pair of ‘experts’. Both are shown to know their stuff. The journo focused often on finding distinctive appearance and flavours. The founder of a dessert business that went from nothing to £30m sales in six years looked more at branding, packaging and pricing. It was evident that when the third act came – where you get to pitch to big industry buyers – there’d been some tutelage. The main piece we saw was to ‘focus on the usp’. The ‘new’ is the alcohol part. Here’s the under-pressure first pitch;

Tipple Cakes are mini-cupcakes with a twist. After baking they’re injected with alcohol. The cakes stay moist and last a little bit longer than your average cupcakes. The size of the cakes makes then perfect to use as canapés, entertaining for parties, weddings …

An evolution.

They start with a brand name, then they promote their extended shelf-life and when they are likely best eaten.

We’ve progressed from the ‘what’ to a bit of the ‘how’ here. What’s still missing is the ‘why’.

And I follow the school that insists you must lead with this. Why would someone need to eat one? There’s a good few emotions to pull here.

I think they also missed a trick with an ‘associative pitch’. The big cheese panel talked about chocolate liqueurs. I sense they could have piggybacked on them. Never be afraid to mention a different product or two if you genuinely move beyond or combine bits of them.

I believe this programme first aired in 2012. Sadly two years on neither product ever hit the shelves. Yet their pitch lessons apply to many a b2b new product effort still today.

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As a postscript, here’s a delicious quote from the pudding company entrepreneur presenting the show, via a startups site. It is so salient to anybody with a brand new business idea to ‘sell’;

“Supermarkets get sent tons of new products every week so buyers don’t want to see you. They’ll say ‘send it in and we’ll have a look it’. I made sure I got to sell to them.”

The key was selling a ‘ready-to-go’ product – not just a concept.

“I know the ropes. We took them the finished, packaged Real McCoy and proved the supply chain was set up. Too many people see them as business advisers who’ll help you with your brand – they’re not.”

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