So you’ve nailed the farmer’s markets, your products are well known locally, maybe on the shelves of your local shop, but how do you take the next step to grow your food business?
You love your product, you’re passionate about your product, but Monday morning comes and you have to go back to your day job. You spend your time there trying to work out how you can make your food business pay a decent enough wage to allow you to escape working for someone else and take the reins yourself. This could in fact be easier than you think.
1. Ready steady go
Evaluate your business properly.
- Can you take your cottage industry and transform it into a wholesale business that could keep up with orders from ten local shops, 100 nationwide shops, a large supermarket brand?
- Work out what extra cost, equipment, space and staffing you would need for each jump up the ladder.
Usually upscaling food production can have a positive impact on the cost, giving you a higher profit margin because you can buy your ingredients in bulk, for a much more reasonable price. However, taking on more staff, buying equipment to automate processes and locating from your kitchen at home (to an industrial kitchen) can be costly. To maximise your profits, you will need to work out which parts are essential in upscaling production and how many units you can make before certain expenditures are required.
One very interesting way of raising the necessary funds is through crowdfunding, which is exactly what The Wild Beer Co did.
2. Shop till you drop
Start by targeting small local shops, delis and supermarkets.
- Schedule a time to visit and take some samples with you, making sure you include a price list of how much the product will cost them and the RRP. It is much better to go in person than just to send some samples and a price list in the post. To meet someone who is passionate about the product and who can explain how it is made, will make the product not only more personal, but it means the sales person can then feed the story back to the customers.
- Create Point Of Sale (POS) information that could be displayed alongside the product to highlight the handmade, local credentials. A good way of encouraging local shops to take your product is to offer it as Sale or Return. This means there’s less financial risk to the shop owner, so they are much more likely to give it a try. Make sure you offer them as wide a range of flavours/products as possible, so they’re able to make an eye catching display.
- Schedule a time to return in 2 weeks to find out how your product has sold, and whether they’d be happy to place an order. This kind of feedback is invaluable. It will tell you who the customers were, how they felt about the quality, price, packaging of the product and how it compared with competitive products. You could also prepare a questionnaire for the shop staff/customers to fill in, which would give you further details.
Feedback is worth nothing if you don’t act on it! If you need to tweak or improve your product, it will be more cost effective and successful to do it at this stage. Don’t view criticism as a personal reflection on you, be pragmatic, if this is what will improve your food business then surely it’s a no-brainer.
3. Go big or go home
Assess whether your product could be made in large containers at a competitive enough price for use in restaurants and cafes. This could be a great way to increase your orders and to really get your product known amongst foodies within the industry. Then, pack up your product and take it to local eateries to see who would like to try this fabulous, handmade, local product at an introductory price. Try and get feedback from the establishments that aren’t intially interestested and remember, this feedback is more valuable than the positive comments praising your skilled handiwork and ingenuity.
4. Cast your net wide
Selling your product online can be a fantastic way of reaching a much wider audience, but make sure you consider the posting of your product.
Try sending a couple out to friends and family and ask them for feedback on the state it arrived in. Letterbox companies like “Bloom and Wild” have made their whole business fit around a product packaged in a way it will fit though a letterbox. This not only makes postage cheaper, but they can ensure a faster, more convenient postage with no waiting in for the parcel, or hunting around the garden when you get home, to find which nook or cranny the postman might have thought to hide it in.
Why not order some of your competitor’s product to see how it’s packaged and how much they charge for postage? Remember, even though your food business might be in its infancy other people won’t know this.
Make your eCommerce website look as professional as possible. There is nothing more frustrating than a website which is difficult to navigate and doesn’t use images optimised for the device you are browsing it on.
5. Join the club
Social media is a great way to get noticed. Join them all; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. You can link them together for efficiency and then you only have to post to one and it will be reposted on the others. Personally, we favour Instagram for the food industry because you can then make full use of their photo filters to enhance your image.
Take photos of any fairs or markets featuring your product, restaurants using your product, recipe ideas and pictures of dishes, to spark peoples interest.
6. It’s a private party
The wedding and events industry is big business. Everyone is looking for that unique idea to give them originality. Allow people to put their own label on your product to personalise it. You could offer this for events and parties if they order a certain number of units, or you could go further down the private labeling route and allow retail shops to add their own label to your product (known as white labeling). This is pretty standard practice in the wholesale food industry, with lots of factories producing a product and labeling it up with different packaging for the retail industry.
The benefits to retailers are they don’t have the cost of the initial set up. They don’t have to shell out for the product manufacturing, all they have to do is design a label and they are ready to hit the market. For your food business, it means you can set a higher minimum order for this service, which helps ensure a regular income stream, which will doubtlessly help cash flow and increase the money you have to reinvest in your company.