Is Your Food Good Enough to Sell?

Know the Essentials of Starting a Successful Food Business

amazing artisan pasta vendor gets the food out there in a local market
••• Susie Wyshak

To start a successful career selling food products, you must first make sure that your offerings will appeal to consumers and be profitable. Passing around samples to gauge people's reactions can indicate how your products will be received.

It is also important to make sure that you have the budget to do it. Thus, you may need to sell your product ideas to banks or to investors to obtain additional funding. Production and co-packaging costs are among the expenses that should be considered in the requested amount.

Starting With the Basics

Once you have established that your products will bring in a profit and you have the proper funding, you also must:

  • Confirm the recipe
  • Form a company
  • Select a production facility such as a commercial kitchen
  • Secure local licensing and insurance
  • Pass inspection

Selling Your Products Through Retail Stores

Once you have settled on how your products will be produced, you will need to determine how they will be sold. You should develop a target list of the accounts to which you want to sell your products. When you present your products to retailers, establish the distribution method, if any, and how you can best promote your products in their store. This will help you to understand how to grow sales at that particular location and, eventually, sell your products through a distribution chain.

Selling Small-Scale as an Artisan Food Crafter

If your goal is to sell specific products to a small consumer group:

  1. Determine your brand and the commitment required to bring your products to market. For example, you don't want to be awake at 2 a.m. fixing a juicer or working on food safety plans.
  2. Consider the sources for your ingredients, the seasonal availability, and the current and future cost, especially when working with a high-demand ingredient such as nuts that could get more expensive over time.
  3. Interview food startups that have a food business similar to the one you're considering, and ask them questions such as how they started, the challenges they've experienced, and how they are currently doing.
  4. Consider the information that you wish to collect, such as food shopper demographics and seasonal buying patterns.

Getting insight from local businesses and local retailers, even if you do not want to sell at their stores, can provide valuable information. Approach some local cafes and stores to see if they are selling any local, competitive products. These days, there are many hot coffee companies and interesting food business models from which to choose.

Maximizing Your Chance of Success

You may start your food business with one intention and vision of success. For example, selling food you make at home because people love it sounds really good until your products are advertised in a nationwide magazine and the money offers begin to materialize. Specialty food veterans have seen many small food companies fail over the years, often because they are busy seeking publicity without a real sales or production plan. Once you know what you're producing, take a break, reflect, learn, and make a plan to achieve whatever you want your company to become.