Launching a Brand

4 Winning Strategies for CPG Start-Ups

Phil Soutar
Sr. Account Manager

September 19, 2023

At Kaleidoscope, we’ve worked to bring the stories, identities, and design language of many start-up CPG brands to life, including better-for-you innovators like Egglife and Fairlife

We know what it takes to stand out on shelf when you’re David in a sea of Goliaths. Here are our favorite tips, specifically for start-up brands, to get the attention and consideration you deserve. Think strategies to create brand awareness, leverage social media marketing, and center the consumer experience to gain that coveted competitive edge.

1. Make charity part of your character

Some of our favorite start-up brands are using a portion of their proceeds to support organizations and causes they’re passionate about and helping spread awareness through their branding and marketing. For example, with its “Bigger than a can” mission, San Diego-based Wave Soda donates 1% of its annual sales to the Surfrider Foundation, a local nonprofit dedicated to keeping every beach clean and accessible for all to enjoy.

2. Give consumers the power to subscribe and save

It’s no secret subscriptions have exploded in recent years. Consumers love the convenience and the “surprise and delight” of each delivery. For new brands, offering subscription boxes and discounts on bulk orders can foster repeat purchases and brand loyalty. Even better if consumers can personalize their subscription plans, as Spot & Tango demonstrates: by filling out a short survey, the pet food brand will create a customized, veterinary-recommended meal plan for your pup that is delivered to your home.

3. Adopt “clean labels” and ingredient transparency

By demanding transparency from brands around both ingredients and business practices, consumers of every generation are driving the “clean label” trend and helping to spread awareness, leading to better-for-you ingredient information becoming the norm and not the exception in the food industry.

“The clean label trend refers to food products containing natural, familiar, simple ingredients that are easy to recognize, understand, and pronounce, with no artificial ingredients or synthetic chemicals.” To become competitive, emerging CPG brands should take heed and ensure their packaging delivers exactly the kind of information consumers are looking for.

Brands like The Good Crisp Company, Partake Brewery, and Wave Soda are not hiding anything from consumers—and they’re proving we don’t have to sacrifice flavor for healthy options. All three have dedicated pages on their websites to detail ingredients and showcase the benefits of their products.

4. Welcome everyone to the family

Research shows that loyalty club members are 59% more likely to choose your brand, and 62% will also spend more than non-members who purchase from you. One of our favorite examples: a Partake Brewery membership allows consumers to join an online community, with access to new innovations first.

It’s important to remember that these are not exclusive clubs, as with some luxury brands. Everyone is welcome to join a group of like-minded souls who enjoy first dibs and occasional free stuff. Wave Soda and Chicago French Press allow consumers to earn points through social media, which can be redeemed on their next order. By snapping photos and posting online, members not only help promote the brand, but they benefit from unique opportunities or savings.

4 winning brands, 4 winning strategies: who’s doing it best

We’ve mentioned the following brands a few times throughout this article, because they’re each using the four strategies we’ve outlined to their advantage. Like them, you’ve got a great idea, and it’s time to get the world on board. As your partner (and people who just love this stuff), we’ll help you think through every angle to devise a brand strategy, identity, and plan that drives awareness, adoption, and evangelism.

Wave Soda

Charitable giving, bulk savings, a clean label and transparent ingredients, and a rewards program. Wave Soda is hitting all its “brand to watch” marks, and the packaging could not be more representative of sunny SoCal vibes. In a booming category that also includes Olipop, Poppi, and United Sodas, it takes a lot to attract consumers, but being authentic to your roots and your mission will always win points.

The Good Crisp Company

With delightful branding and a slogan (“All taste. No guilt.”) that connote clean ingredients plus a heart full of charity (the founder’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at birth, so the company donates 5% of online sales to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society), The Good Crisp Company tastefully checks all the boxes. After all, it’s gonna take something truly unique to compete with those other canister snacks.

Chicago French Press

Based in our hometown, Chicago French Press is “community focused, mission driven,” delivering 5% of the proceeds from each bag sold to support “select 501©3 organizations locally and globally.” The brand also offers cost-saving subscriptions and bundles, like the Black History Month Diaspora Bundle above. Bonus points: we love this particular brand expression using the Bean.

Spot & Tango

Spot & Tango, “a personalized pet health and wellness subscription,” has made customizing and receiving “human-grade” dog food exceptionally easy, starting with a 3-minute quiz that helps the company tailor a plan just for your dog. There is a LOT of competition in this space, but we like Spot & Tango for its simplicity and transparency.

Partake Brewing

Non-alcoholic brewery Partake Brewing makes it easy to keep your fridge stocked by offering savings through bulk subscriptions. The benefits are numerous, from free shipping to 10% off every order to “surprise perks”—all great tactics to raise awareness and bring sober-curious consumers to an up-and-coming brand.