For the last task of the series, teams Versatile and Connexus had to develop, produce and pitch a health snack to a range of retailers. Once again, we’re pleased to provide expert commentary and business lessons from the episode from last year’s runner-up, entrepreneur Bianca Miller, and Neil Dagger, senior product marketing manager for domain name registry Nominet. Warning: contains spoilers.
Missed the last one? Catch up with our commentary on episode 9.
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It’s the final task in the process, and what a task to end on – not because it was particularly difficult but because they made such a mess of it.
Like last year, the task was to create a food-based product. Last year we created desserts and in my case a tea-infused cheesecake called ‘Tea Pot’ led my team and I to the final five! I can’t believe it was a year ago now. It’s scary how quickly the year has flown by. But enough about me… back to the disaster that was this task!
The teams had to create a healthy food snack, then produce, package and pitch it to major retailers. One team created a brand of vegetable crisp and the other made a strange crumbly superfood bar called ‘Rejuvenate’.
The vegetable crisps were drenched in oil thanks to Vana who decided that it was intelligent to use double the amount of oil illustrated in the recipe.
Richard ‘the marketing man’ had created rather impressive package design but neglected to highlight the USP of the product – that it was a raw, dehydrated vegetable crisp. The cooking process, or rather the fact that it is dehydrated, was key information for the retailer and the customer.
Meanwhile, on the other team, Charleine was busy in the kitchen, though chose not to follow a recipe which in the realm of healthy food is essential for ensuring it tastes good and that the benefits of the snack bar can be displayed on the packaging.
Health claims cannot be made if the product does not contain enough of the ingredient said to produce the benefit, thus rendering the USP of the product impossible to use.
Oh, and the Rejuvenate bar was so dry it may well have needed some of the oil from the vegetable crisp and a large glass of water to make it edible.
In most food tasks of this nature, the retailer is happy to take an order subject to a sizeable list of tweaks required to make the food ‘shelf ready’. On this occasion, the less-than-impressed retailers didn’t place an order – not one single order! A first in The Apprentice world!
On this occasion, both project managers brought a member of their team back into the boardroom where they were left to talk about their ability and highlights throughout the show’s process. Brett was fired but in a kind “I don’t really want to point the finger at you but I have no intention of working with you ever” kind of way. So the final five remains for the interview episode everyone waits for.
Business lessons from this week’s episode:
When making a product that has a recipe, use it – The reason the recipe has been created is so you can make the item well and avoid making mistakes. I could draw parallels between this and mentoring – having a mentor in business prevents you from making the mistakes they once made.
Pitch with passion – Pitching is a unique skill but it is also one that can be taught. I have taught many clients ‘power pitching’ techniques for use internally and with clients. One thing is for sure: when pitching to a client or retailer there are a few key attributes required to make the pitch effective – passion and enthusiasm for the product, knowledge, its USPs and an understanding of the synergy between what you are pitching and the person you are pitching to.
Ensure that your product is consistent – Deliver on expectations in the product quality, packaging, name and taste.
Finally, while Brett was always giving credit to Richard, which is a lovely thing to do, it’s wise not to defend an underperforming team member to the extent that you lose sight of your own future. As a leader it is important to promote the ability of others while illustrating your strengths and personal brand. If you cannot market yourself and promote your attributes, will others?
Next week: the interviews. Dreaded by the candidates but entertainment for the audience at home. I am delighted to be watching it from the comfort of my sofa this year!
Nominet – The UK internet registry for .co.uk and the new shorter .uk
This week Lord Sugar wanted to meet the candidates at a deserted swimming pool. Curious. It turned out to be a flimsy link to the nation’s desire for a healthy lifestyle and the new growing market for healthy snacks as an alternative to the ubiquitous chocolate bar. The task was to select ingredients for a tasty and healthy snack, produce it, package it and convince a selection of major retailers to buy it.
Ingredient selection passed off smoothly, products were named without too much pain but it started to go horribly wrong during the cooking. One team poured in enough oil to cause OPEC some concern and the price of Brent Crude to spiral.
The other team produced a product ironically entitled Rejuvenate, which was so dry and unpleasant that the slightest taste sent anyone trying it to dash for the nearest water supply gagging.
The results were anything but tasty and anything but healthy. All claims of any beneficial properties had to be removed or edited down to the point where the whole essence of the product was lost. With messed up ingredients, bad taste, poor product names, and dull packaging, customers just didn’t like the products.
The pitches proved typically disastrous. Brett secured his position as the nation’s favourite random word generator, producing a tirade of meaningless waffle that even Google Translator would have struggled with.
The bemused retailers were all so impressed that they ordered nothing. This was a first for the entire history of The Apprentice. No sales for either team. A draw. Some hasty rewriting of the rules resulted in both teams being called back into the boardroom for a good kicking.
Charleine was clearly feeling the strain, having to leave the room to compose herself. She had the look of a dead man walking, having been so near to being fired so many times. She must have felt her number was up. Even smooth Richard took some heavy abuse but remained professionally composed, clearly scoring highly on emotional intelligence.
In the end Brett was fired, as Lord Sugar concluded he was the least likely to be trusted anywhere near his £250,000 investment. A lucky escape for Charleine, again, displaying more lives than a cat!
If there was a business message lurking anywhere in this comedy of errors, it was that your product must reflect your business proposition and carry through with consistency into product design, packaging and name. If any element doesn’t support the brand and the product positioning the whole thing unravels. A health snack has to look good, taste good and must to some degree actually be healthy.
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