You are a chef, home brewer, coffee roaster or baker and you want to give the world a taste of your creations but how do you get your food product to the buying public? The good news is that the food niche business is big business and growing every year. National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, industry group reports that in 2010 there was more $50 billion of specialty food items sold in stores and another $12+ billion in restaurants, this totals 13% of all food sales.
Read these industry expert’s advice to take your food product from your kitchen to the supermarket or specialty food market shelves.
Barbara Lang, restaurant consultant and author of food market startup guide: From Restaurant to Retail advises newcomers to, “Study the market and your competitors to determine the current selections and determine how your product is different”. She notes that often first-time entrepreneurs think that better taste guarantees success, but sadly that is not true. Your items point of difference and marketing message will make or break your newly established food company.
Gourmet shops do not even try to compete on price with large national supermarket chains, instead, they focus on the new, unique and different type of food product – all with “stories” that sell. Your message may be one of foreign appeal, organic sustainability, hobby enthusiasts or other angles. Outlets to sell your food goods could be specialty realtors, farmers markets, online sites, mail order or restaurants. In today’s marketing world the message is the product so take time and use creativity to craft a winning one for your food item.
All US states have an agricultural university or food science programs at the ready to help you succeed. They can advise you on what has worked well in the past, offer helpful advice and connect you with industry professionals. Some areas, like mine in Long Island, New York, offer low-cost commercial kitchen rentals plus marketing and financial advice through the SBA (Small Business Administration) startup division called the SBDEC – Small Business Development and Economic Corporation. Contact your local SCORE group to find out what is available in your local area. Another reason to take advantage of these programs is that they are all complying with state and city commercial food handling regulations.
Food brokers are businesses that sell both large national chains and sometimes specialty food chains. However, often you can meet with the owners of small stores directly.
Whole Foods has an innovative program of introducing new products in a store or region for customer reaction. They even offer loans to chefs and food purveyors starting at $1,000 up to $100,000 to help them grow successfully. Whole Foods, like most chain stores, expect the food producers to support their brand in-store with marketing, samples, coupons, promotions and events. Your job as food producer is not finished until the customer buys your product off the retailer’s shelves. Most stores evaluate products over a six month period for a fair trial of new items.