If you want to start a food business, then you have a very specific set of challenges, but also so huge advantages.
Let’s start with the advantages, shall we?
Testing your idea is a cinch.
1. Unless you live on the moon, there are going to be SOME people around you who will be happy to taste your product and tell you exactly what they think of it. Unlike a “designed” product, which might only be relevant to a tiny percentage of the people you know, nearly everybody can taste your food or drink product.
2. Secondly, you’ll be able to gauge their responses better as it’s going to be less subjective than “Do you like my painting of my dog?” – if someone doesn’t like your pickles, they will run like the WIND when you offer them a second one!
3. If you’re lucky, you might be able to make your first batches yourself, and keep testing your market on slightly larger audiences – a local farmer’s market, school fair, summer fete or street food event, even a supper club.
But as soon as you start SELLING your product (i.e. at the farmer’s market) this is where the challenges start.
4. The big one, of course, is food regulations.
As soon as you are SELLING your product, you will come up against food preparation regs and these will vary a lot depending on where you are located and what local as well as national or EU laws are.
For instance, in the UK, you do not need a food hygiene certificate to make and sell food for charity events – charity events are therefore a great place to test your product, because you don’t need to invest in a certificate or off-site cooking facilities yet.
However, in the US these things can vary from state to state so it’s really important to research local food regulations around your target test audiences before you rock up at your local farmer’s market with your raw scallop and peanut relish (!) assuming everything will be fine.
Meeting these requirements could be as simple as having separate tools and storage facilities (i.e. refrigerator) for your commercial work, but some states and situations might require a separate KITCHEN. This isn’t as awful as it sounds though – renting space in a commercial kitchen is very common and will get you through the next phase of testing and perfecting.
5. For some products, as soon as you have tested your product idea and honed your recipe, working independently won’t be a viable option and you will start looking for a manufacturer rather than trying to scale it on your own.
When you have identified your manufacturer, do your level best to visit them in person. Check out their facilities, the other products that they make – ask for samples and research where these other products end up. Ask, ask, ask.
6. While this is going on, start your market research – of all products, food products need retailers, and finding retailers who will market you properly and come back to you again and again is going to be crucial.
7. Check the regulations AGAIN – what was compliant for a charity event won’t necessarily cover you for a local store, and what covers you for a local store won’t necessarily cover you for a national chain if you’re in the US. Some retailers might also have branches in other countries – Canada, or elsewhere in the EU, and it might be important to them that your product can be sold in those countries.
Working with a manufacturer will help you navigate all of this, because this is literally their job. They will know all about compliance and – vitally – correct labelling.
Regulations are not your enemy! Don’t get into a mindset that they’re there to hinder you. It’s these strict regulations that keeps you and your family safe, and allows you to buy anything you want in the supermarket, farmers market, online or from a street vendor and know 100% that everything is clean, safe and accurately labelled, even if it originates in a different state or country.
Want to know more about packaging, marketing and distributing your product? I have a course for that! My flagship course, Flourish, covers everything you need to know about getting your product OUT THERE AND SELLING. Check it out now and let me know what you think!