The Ultimate Guide to Writing a CPG Business Plan

Writing a CPG business plan? It can be a daunting prospect. There’s a lot of research to do and a bunch of information to get down on paper.

But break it down into bite-sized stages and getting your business plan document together becomes a much easier task.

Here’s our ultimate guide to writing a CPG business plan — covering all the whys and hows of business plan writing.

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Why is a CPG business plan so important?

A CPG business plan that’s well thought out and well written performs a couple of really important functions.

Firstly, it helps you to convince other stakeholders of the value of your business idea and your ability to realize it. If you’re seeking investment or finding partners to work with, a business plan is a must.

A CPG business plan is also really useful for you. By really delving into the details, you get to understand your business and product better. And you get to break down those big goals into more manageable chunks.

This document should be one you revisit regularly. You’ll make changes to it as your CPG business grows and adapts. It will also act as a reference, keeping you on track and reminding you of the bigger picture.

The best time to write a CPG business plan

A CPG business plan helps to outline the goals, challenges, finances, and overall direction of your business.

That’s why it’s a really good idea to get your business plan together early in the life cycle of your brand or product — usually within the first 6 to 12 months.

At this point in time, you’ll have gained some experience with your brand and product and can use this knowledge to inform your business plan. But you won’t have spent too much time “off-piste”, working without the guiding force a business plan gives you.

Essential CPG business plan sections to include

So what should you include in your CPG business plan? Here are a couple of key sections you shouldn’t go without.

Executive summary

An executive summary introduces your business and describes the ultimate aim of your business plan — whether that’s to attract investment, realign your team goals, or determine for yourself how viable your idea actually is.

Keep your executive summary short and snappy. No longer than half a page.

And don’t forget to tailor this section to the person reading your business plan. Adapt your executive summary depending on which investors and stakeholders you’re reaching out to.

Your business and product

This is the part of your plan where you outline your idea and the driving reason behind both your business and product. You’ll cover:

The problem: What problem does your CPG business and/or product solve for your intended customers? Why will people want what you’re selling? What gap in the market do you fill?

The solution: How will you solve this particular problem for your customers? What will you do differently to other CPG brands? How will you meet the needs of your customers?

A bit of business history: How long has your business been around? Who’s running things and what is their experience in the CPG sector? What is the legal setup of your company?

A look to the future: Where do you want to take your company? What is your mission statement? What values will guide your decision-making?

The market

Here you set out who will be buying your product. You might like to use buyer personas to illustrate the demographic makeup of your target market.

You should also detail the history of this market. Has it been growing in recent years? Is it stable? What is its growth potential going forward?

Share an overview of your market’s income, location, age, gender, values, and buying habits  — referencing existing customers wherever possible.

Also, explain how much your target market will be willing to pay for your product. And how much of your target market you’ll need to engage to make your new product financially viable.

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Your competition

You may have a winning product idea. But if a competitor has already been there and done it, what are you actually offering to the market?

This section of your CPG business plan should provide a detailed analysis of your competitors. Cover their operations, their financials, their history, and distribution channels.

This in-depth analysis will help you to express what sets you out from the competition. It will demonstrate competitor strengths and weaknesses — and where your brand can exploit them.

By the end of this section, readers of your business plan should be confident there is a gap in the market your brand or product can fill.

Marketing and sales plan

This section of your CPG business plan should explain how you’re going to sell and promote your products, attract customers, and retain existing customers.

It’s a good time to mention how you plan to work with retailers and distributors and ensure a consistent supply of your products to store shelves. And whether you’re planning to sell through other channels, like online, too.

You’ll also want to include:

  • Pricing strategy
  • Labeling and packaging requirements; how your products will get noticed in stores
  • Brand messaging and how you’ll stand out from competitors
  • Marketing assets, like emails, social ads, and in-store promotions
  • A timeline and budget for engaging customers across a range of different channels — both in-store and online
  • A plan for how you will assess marketing ROI.

Business operations

Now onto the day-to-day running of your company.

This section is all about how you will achieve the goals of your business plan through your operations. Here you’ll cover strategies for managing, staffing, manufacturing, and inventory.  

Detail the organizational structure of your business and a little about key players. Also give information about your location, premises, and equipment — and whether these can scale as the business grows.

A few other key questions to answer in this section include:

  • How will you source or manufacture your product?
  • Is a steady supply of relevant ingredients or materials available?
  • How will you ensure retailers get the right amount of stock?
  • How will you keep accurate records of stock, sales, accounts, and quality control?
  • Which CPG distributors, suppliers, and retailers do you plan to work with?

Financial forecasts

For many readers of your CPG business plan, this is where they’ll sit up and really take notice. All figures you include in your financial forecasts should be absolutely watertight.

You’ll need to include:

A sales forecast: This is where you predict how many sales you make and what you will charge for your product

A profit forecast: Here you’ll predict cost of sales, overheads, profit, and loss

Cash flow statement: This section details how much money you need to have in the bank to keep operations running. Cash flow will track money in and money out.

Balance sheet: This describes the company’s current financial position, including assets, liabilities, and any shareholders. It’s basically a financial health check.

When it comes to attracting investment, it’s always better to under- rather than over-promise.

Fall short of ambitious financial targets and you’ll give a bad impression. Meeting more modest targets will give investors more confidence in your business and your financial understanding.

But don’t go too modest at the same time. You think your CPG can hit the big time, right? And you want investors to believe the same.

SWOT analysis

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Strengths and weaknesses are internal — and something that you can actively change. Opportunities and threats are things going on outside of your company. You can adapt to them but you can’t change them.

These four elements all relate to one another. For example, your strengths can help you make the most of opportunities or overcome threats.

As well as creating a SWOT analysis for your own company, create them for key competitors too. This will help you to see where you can gain the upper hand within the market.

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A few top tips for writing your CPG business plan

So we’ve covered the sections you have to include in your CPG business plan, now it’s time for a few top tips for bringing it all together.

Before you write your CPG business plan

Collect your thoughts

Before you launch into writing, take some time to think about what you want to say.

Use tried and tested methods for getting ideas down onto paper. Create a mind map. Write on Post-It notes. Explore the keywords you want to associate with your brand.

And if you could use some inspiration, look to big CPG brands and to brands that are similar to yours.

Do thorough research

A CPG business plan isn’t a place for hunches and suppositions. You need to know the facts inside out and provide appropriate figures to back up all of your claims.

Remember that it should take longer to research your CPG business plan than it does to write it.

While you write your CPG business plan

Keep it simple

You want to get across the idea behind your business and product in the simplest and most succinct way possible.

So avoid industry jargon. Keep language simple and sentences short. If you have additional data and research you want to include, put it in an appendix at the end of your business plan document.

All of this will help make your CPG business plan accessible to a reader and make all info digestible too.

Be realistic

While ambition is to be lauded, you need to ground your business plan in reality. Don’t be too optimistic when it comes to time scales and finances. Build in a buffer to all estimates then you’re not always relying on a best-case scenario.

Enjoy it!

Show why you care so much about your brand and your product. Facts and figures are incredibly important, yes. But emotion will help to cut through to a reader, too.

You’re the person who knows most about your brand — s relish writing about it! You’re getting the opportunity to share your great ideas with a wider audience.

After you’ve written your CPG business plan

Check spelling and grammar

It really doesn’t matter how impressive your brand or product idea is, bad spelling and grammar give a terrible impression.

Don’t let stakeholders doubt your professionalism. Run your business plan through proofing tools to correct any errors. (Top tip: a free tool like Grammarly can make all the difference!)

Get a business advisor to take a look

Once you have a first draft of your CPG business plan, get a business advisor or a business person you respect to cast an eye over it.

It can be hard when you live and breathe your business to properly convey ideas to an audience who know nothing about it. So a little objective criticism can be really valuable. Ask your reader to point out sections that could use some clarification or simplification.

Revisit your CPG business plan regularly

As we discussed earlier, revisiting your business plan can help get you back on track when you lose sight of your goals.

But a business plan is also a work in progress. Looking at your business plan every couple of months will help you adapt your plan to the realities of business operations.

The more experience you have with a brand or product, the more facts and figures you have at your disposal. Input these stats into your business plan and it becomes an ever more accurate and useful document.

Ready to get your CPG business off the ground?

Writing a CPG business plan is an exciting step towards realizing your new brand and product ideas. So is getting the right distributor on board.

Here at Buffalo Market, we are proud to work with brands who champion alternative ingredients, organic processes, and products that are good for both people and the planet.

We specialize in distributing purpose-driven food and beverage products, helping forward-thinking CPG brands get their products into retailers and food service establishments across the US.

Want to get your product in front of more people? Or find out if Buffalo Market would make the perfect addition to your operations?

Just tell us a little about your brand and your requirements and we’ll get back to you with all the info you need.  

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