Posted: Fri 25th Mar 2022
If you're passionate about food and keen to work for yourself, now is a good time to consider starting a food business.
Creating a successful food business isn't always straightforward though. It can take time to develop your concept and find the best distributors and it often involves working long, unsociable hours.
If you think you're up for the challenge, our new free guide, How to start a food business, helps you break down each step of the process.
Below, we give you some insight into how you can turn your passion for food into a fully operational food business.
How to take your food business from an idea to a brand
Making the transition
Generating ideas is the first stage – and arguably the easiest. Developing a cottage industry brand is often the first step for food entrepreneurs who are keen to develop their passion for food into a business.
This can work by selling at farmer's markets, pop-up stalls and local shops, and it may be possible to cook at home, providing a modest income and a safe way to test the market before scaling up.
But how do you know when the time is right to take it further?
Ella Rauen-Prestes founded Fitbakes, which sells a range of low-sugar, high-protein cakes. Here are Ella's top three tips:
Get the labels and packaging right to help build consumer trust.
Find people you can trust to talk to about your product or idea.
Network and attend events to get inspired and find useful information.
How to get supermarket listings
It's difficult to make your business a profitable success if you don't target large retailers. Supermarkets are where the volume is, and although it will cost you more to take your products into the supermarket, you'll reap the benefits on a greater scale too.
You'll hear 'no' a lot and that your product doesn't fit the range, so it's crucial that you grow a thick skin. The buyer will look at it from the point of view of what fits into their category, but also what fits their corporate agenda. So your margins need to be more attractive than your competitors'.
According to Julian Abel, co-founder of Nowt Poncy, you have a "one in 2,000" chance of getting your product onto the supermarket shelf. When you consider that the 'big four' supermarkets (Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury's) own 70% of the grocery market between them, it can feel like the odds are stacked against you.
Your product has to be better than the ones already on sale and, if it's jumping on a trend, timing is crucial. Launch too soon and the buyers – and customers – won't have latched on yet. Wait too long and someone will have got there first.
Meenesh Mistry has had success selling his cookie brand Wholey Moly into Selfridges, Whole Foods and Sourced Market. He has some tips for the research you should do before you pitch to buyers:
Know your category – including your customer type, the competition and typical pricing.
Know your USP – how is your product different and how can you tell this through your branding?
Contacting buyers – understand when is the right time, how to find them and what to give them.
Show momentum – build this up through social media, PR and evidence of sales.
Know your commercials – be clear about your price point and margins and build in promotions.
Supply chain – are you going direct to the consumer, or to wholesalers?
Other free guides in the series
Managing your money
Whatever business you're starting, generating income in the first few years can be tricky. Many food businesses start off as a side hustle, with founders juggling a part-time job or consultancy to help pay the bills.
As Ella Rauen-Prestes says:
"Always run on a shoestring. Even if you have money, spend it wisely, as you'll need it later on.
"If you operate like this, you'll also learn to do more yourself. A lot of people will try to sell you their services, but it isn't that hard to do most of it yourself – and it's free."
Here are some handy tips for how to be successful on a shoestring budget:
Be prepared to barter – never accept the first quote you get and always ask if they can do a better price.
Be clear about your expectations – if you pay an expert, don't be afraid to challenge them if they don't deliver.
Mistakes can be costly – if you get your labelling wrong and have to do a recall, it can cost thousands of pounds.
Learn from other people – ask them about their experiences and recommendations, especially if you are looking to pay to work with experts.
Create a network – you can tap into lots of free advice on social media and networking sites, Facebook groups and events.