Commercial Strategy Advice – when does that kick in? Part 1

Commercial Strategy, Food Technology, Shelf life extension

The short answer used to be “Never”, for reasons of inexperience and subclauses in my Professional Indemnity Insurance policy.

However, with 10 years of consulting under my belt and many, many more of grocery shopping – both privately and professionally – I am well placed to offer Commercial Strategy Advice.


Ideally, we would look at Commercial Strategy in the Scope Report Service, right at the start of the project. However, if the question is raised post launch it is generally because a distributor has been circling round. The client is worried a product’s shelf life dates may spoil their chances of getting listed.

Pâté, preservatives and persuasion

A pâté producer wanted to sell on the opposite coast in Australia (that’s a lot of supply chain links to consider).

The brand’s value propositions included, in a prominent gold-embossed roundel on the expensive packaging, that it contained were “No Nasties”. (see this post about how most Food Technologists feel about that particular marketing/graphic designer generated statement).

The brand did have a very nice HACCP based Food Safety Program in place and impeccable hygiene. So far so good.

But nothing that doesn’t come from the Food Additive Tool Kit is going to give a jar of farmhouse pâté a clear 16 weeks, preferably 20, of perfect sensory quality and a match to the microbiological standards required for that product category.

(Actually, HPP in flexible packaging could give months, but consumers tend to mistrust this kind of shelf life. Shame)


It took several pages of a well-referenced report and a couple of hours of figurative hand holding to convince the brand to come over to the Additive Side.

We the discussed the pros and cons of adding the work-horse preservative sodium metabisulfite at a mere 300 ppm.

We even talked through the brand’s concern they would become a Pusher of Nasties. We put that to rest by agreeing that if a customer was going to get anywhere near the accepted maximum daily intake level of sodium metabisulfite they would be wolfing down at least one and half kilos of pâté. That would mean there were “competing problems” in their life, none of which would be the brand’s fault.

We also included a sensory evaluation program to ensure the brand’s signature authentic European flavours and textures were not adversely affected.

The brand decided to take the advice and fulfilled many, many orders on the opposite coast.

Looking ahead and owning your decisions

However, I could not be involved in the decision on what to do with all those labels and packaging which, thanks to that gleaming little roundel, could not be used any longer.

If the bigger picture, including the 5 year strategic plan, had been discussed at the label design stage we could have made room for technical developments designed to meet the requirements of a national distribution commercial strategy.  I am not the only consultant who winces to hear of clients’ commercial strategy opportunities being held hostage to thousands of dollars worth of restrictive packaging and labels sitting on shelves.

This is one reason that I offer a look at client’s commercial strategy in the initial stages of consultation.

Call it thinking ahead, call it interfering, call it professionalism but it will call out all your strategic and practical ducks and get them lined up in a formation that will free your business up to sell more products.

Get in touch for a talk about how I can help with your commercial strategy with my Food Technologist lens.