Investing in the Future of Food: Country Archer CEO attributes innovation success to data investment

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Investing in the Future of Food, Data, Meat snacks

Syndicated market data’s high price keeps it out of reach for many startups, but it is well worth the investment – even if it is means forgoing other investments that might provide shorter-term returns, according to the co-founder and CEO of the thriving meat snack company Country Archer.

Eugen Kang, who launched his meat snack business in 2011 with his aunt Susan Kang, explains in this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Investing in the Future of Food how Country Archer has used key market data to repeatedly identify emerging trends ahead of the competition, successfully steal market share from iconic category leaders and outlast the flood of me-too products that inevitably follow each new launch.

He also shares tips on how entrepreneurs just starting out can replicate this success even if they can’t afford syndicated data.

The details are in the data

Kang says everyday he scours market data to see how his company’s velocity stacks up to the competition, where there are holes in his distribution, what new products are launching and how they are performing and where consumer demand is not being met, as well as tracking the total size of prize.

He explains that this strategy prompted the company to launch its line of better-for-you meat sticks.

“We knew that sticks was this huge segment of the meat snack business, and it was owned by this big conglomerate, Slim Jim, and it was heavily processed and just not good for you. Consumers were weary of that, but yet it still owned this huge chunk of the market share. So, we only entered the meat stick space 2 years ago, and it is already growing 280% for us year over year. That only could have happened with data,”​ he said.

He added that he also uses data to evaluate dietary trends so that he can distinguish which ones are influential and have staying power.

The company also uses the data to defend its shelf space against the influx of me-too products, some of which might be lower quality or less expensive.

“We have been a front-runner for quite some time now, and staying that true heritage brand has been really paying for us towards the long run. As new players enter the space, category managers are weary of ‘Are you going to be around in a year or two?’ Whereas, Country Archer has been … and the data only looks more positive. We tout the fact we are number one in natural, we are number one in specialty gourmet and, I think, we are now close to being the second leader in natural brands among [mini-outlet],”​ he said.

Negotiate data access if you can’t afford to buy it

Kang recognizes that not everyone can afford syndicated data, but that doesn’t mean they are out of luck.

“In the early years, we didn’t’ have the resources for data … so, when we signed up with a broker we made sure that broker had access to data”​ and would share it, he said.

He also recommended that when financial resources do become available that young companies invest in data, even if that means prioritizing it over other potentially beneficial things, such as a new expo booth.

“I do think that it is helpful in the long run,”​ he said.


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