New England's Most Successful Food Brands and the Top 5 Keys to their Success

New England is home to some of the greatest contributions to the country today. We claim the history and traditions that built our nation, some of the most naturally stunning views, and, of course, the best sports’ teams. New England is a powerhouse of invention and success, and our contributions to food are no exception. Out of the region's surprisingly deep portfolio of successful businesses, we have compiled twenty of the most notable food brands and the top five keys to their success. 

What made these brands last through the years where so many others flopped? Especially in the world of food, where less than 15% of CPGs last beyond the two-year mark, it’s a very competitive market. We took a hard look at each of these brands and found some common characteristics in each of them. Inspired by New England’s food fare, we identified the top five keys to their success.

#1 Idea: Simple and Brilliant

As the old adage goes, ‘the proof is in the pudding’. While a delicious product may not be enough for success on its own, you would be hard-pressed to find a food brand without this essential component. The best products start with a brilliant, and when it comes to food, tasty idea.  One of the best examples of this is NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE®. This brand began with Ruth Wakefield and the opening of Toll House Inn. Wakefield’s home-cooking brought many people in the door, but it was her baked goods that set her apart. In a moment of culinary brilliance, she created the chocolate chip cookie. The cookies were such a hit, they soon gained national renown. One of the tastiest inventions ever made, it's no surprise that these classic cookies turned Nestle Toll House into the company it is today.  

Part of the genius in this idea lies not only in the cookies themselves, although we can all agree they are genius, but also the marketing. Rather than maintain secrecy around the recipe, Toll House® merged with Nestlé® to take the recipe public. Nestlé® began selling chocolate bits, soon to be chocolate chips, with the Toll House recipe on the back making them easy to replicate in every kitchen in America. In an era of high domestic cooking, they were perfectly marketed as a convenient, home-made dessert.

#2 Identity: Know Your Customer

Recognizable marketing is imperative to a new food or beverage product’s success. A good product needs to differentiate from competition, but more than that, it needs to connect with an identifiable customer demographic. To establish longevity in the food market, knowing and maintaining brand identity is essential.

Dunkin’ Donuts® is a prime illustration of branding identity at it’s best. Originally started as a little shop in Quincy called ‘Open Kettle,’ the success of Dunkin’ Donuts® lies in keeping it simple; coffee and donuts to keep "everyday folks running in the morning and keep them running all day long". With a friendly pink and orange logo and fast-food approach, Dunkin’ appeals to the everyday consumer. It’s affordable, readily accessible, and non-exclusive. In contrast to many other brands of coffee, their marketing works so well Dunkin’ has won the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Index® a whopping 10 years in a row!

#3 Timing: The Window of Opportunity

Motivation and creativity are familiar starting points for food entrepreneurs, but for lasting growth, timing in the marketplace makes a world of a difference. As Bobby Unseer once said, "success is where preparation and opportunity meet."

For Welch’s Grape Juice®, timing was everything. Thomas Welch, the creator, had scruples about serving real wine at communion and created this juice product as an unfermented alternative. In the 1880s, this was poorly received and the juice flopped, but as the temperance movement grew and Thomas’ son, Charles, began to push sales, it quickly became the premier natural drink substitute for wine. Charles foresight into consumer demands and trends put him on the map. When prohibition took full force in 1920, he was ahead of the curve, and it catapulted into the brand we know today.

#4 Team: Thoughtful Expansion 

Businesses thrive in a competitive and collaborative marketplace. While hundreds of new businesses start up everyday, for some, joining forces results in the greatest success. 

Polar Beverages, for example, originally started as J.G. Bieberback Co.® selling seltzers and ginger-ale. Ten years later, D. M. Crowley and Co.® was founded as a whole-sale and retail liquor business. Recognizing the potential to join together, Crowley acquired Bieberbach in 1915, and they began to sell wholesale to retail seltzers and liquors. As the company continued to grow, they soon added bottled water to the mix with the acquisition of Polar Spring Company. The combination of quality water, ginger-ale, and pale-ale delivered the best of all three products and brought Polar Springs Beverages® to nearly every shelf in New England stores. 

#5 Impact: Don’t Just Build A Business, Change the World

Impact lies at the heart of Branchfood’s mission. We believe innovation will fix our broken food system, and businesses built with passion can change the world.

There are so many examples of business’s positive social impact, but one that truly stands out is the timeless brand of Ben&Jerry’s® ice cream. Ben and Jerry pushed the boundaries of conventional business from the beginning, keeping social impact just as high a priority as quality ice cream. With funky flavors such as Wavy Gravy and fun marketing campaigns, they quickly developed a slogan of ‘peace, love, and ice cream.’

Written into their mission statement, Ben and Jerry outlined their goals to create the finest-quality natural ice cream and “improve the quality of life of the local, national, and international community.” Even after they were purchased by Unilever, the brand maintained a stance of progressive social impact. Today they offer their lowest paid employees more than twice the minimum wage, use only cage-free eggs, fair trade coffee, growth-hormone free milk, and recently began a campaign to raise awareness about climate change called Save our Swirled.

So there you have it; idea, identity, timing, team, and impact. While there’s no perfect recipe for success, these five aspects of business development have proven tried and true through the many New England food businesses of the past and present. We're thrilled to have these success stories in our back yard and look forward to many more to come.