A Beginner’s Guide to Selling Your Food Products Online
For the budding food manufacturer, getting your food products into retail has never been so accessible. While you may want to go the brick-and-mortar route of consulting with a major grocery retail chain, a lot of new food professionals have opted to save themself a lot of overhead cost by distributing their products through digital channels. Not only can you create a website and easily create a google ad to begin promoting your culinary creations, but you can also access some digital retail titans, like Amazon, who will help to list, promote and circulate your products for you! There’s other great sites, like Shopify, who can assist you in all things drop-shipping and help you create a beautiful store-front connected to their distribution channels. Anyway you roll it, you can create a successful business by selling your food products online if you have the right resources.
Cover Your Bases First: FDA-Approval
We’re going to kick off this process by getting the regulation stuff out of the way. If you’re selling food products to consumers, you must have a nutrition facts panel. A nutrition facts panel is the list of calories, nutrients, ingredients and allergens that are listed (usually) on the back of a food package. And this particular information can’t be presented in any form. It must follow the appropriate format provided by the FDA in order to be accepted at online retailers, like Amazon, for retail sale to consumers. This does not have to be a big deal, actually, that’s why we exist. We know, shameless plug, however there’s a lot of information circulating out there around how this needs to be done. And truth be told, about 98% of products are very simple to label as long as you know your product recipe, serving size, and packaging size. Yep, that’s truly all you need. And chances are, you’ve made your product hundreds (if not thousands) of times so this information is readily accessible.
But, Why Do I Need a Nutrition Panel?
A nutrition panel gives a consumer all they need to know to make a purchase. All bodies are not created equal; some have food aversions, allergies, health issues or disease contraindications. And it’s not a secret that what we put in our body directly effects our health in general. For this reason, the FDA has made it a requirement that food manufacturers list the ingredients in their food products as well as calories, vitamins, nutrients, and even allergens that exist within their product. LabelCalc makes this process super simple by combining a nutrition calculator with ingredient databases. As you identify the ingredients in your product recipe with the ingredients that are within our databases, the calculator feature adds up the nutrients according to the measurements of each ingredient that you list. Then that information is ported into an FDA-approved nutrition fact panel format complete with ingredient and allergen statement that is available for immediate download to print or simply to send to your designer.
The Good Stuff: Selling Your Food Products Online
Now that we’ve got the nitty gritty stuff out of the way, we can get to fun part. We will say that you can’t get past the Amazon/Shopify guards without having that label though — you can thank us later 😉
To begin selling your food products online, you can go a number of routes now that you’ve got that label. The two we’re going to cover today are some of the most popular online retail options used by manufacturers that we assist regularly.
The process to getting started on Amazon is fairly simple. You can list your products on Amazon with or without your own storefront. According to one of our clients at Tango Chili Sauce:
“First you have to build your product page on Amazon with your photos and descriptions and search keywords and all that, then you have to label and send inventory of that product to one of their warehouses, then your page goes live and people can finally order your product. Amazon demands the same amount of product info from you that a retail store would, so it’s all stuff you want to be doing anyways if you want to be serious about selling a product. So on boarding is definitely an involved process, but once you go live it’s mostly automatic sales on Amazon. In my experience, sales actually gain momentum as long as you keep inventory stocked, and that’s purely off the strength of the product, before even advertising. “
Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA)
The part that our client mentions above about “sending your inventory to one of their warehouses” is one of the benefits to selling on Amazon called “fulfillment by Amazon”. This program is actually available to those who do or don’t list their products on Amazon. This specific option takes care of all of the product distribution for you. Once your product has been approved for sale via Amazon, you will send inventory to one of their warehouses and they take it from there.
Here’s what Amazon has to say:
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) offers similar benefits to drop-shipping while giving you more control over your brand experience. You don’t need to sell products in Amazon stores to use FBA—although with an audience of hundreds of millions of unique visitors each month, Amazon is a selling channel worth considering.
With FBA, you store products in an Amazon fulfillment center, and we:
- Offer quick delivery with Prime Shipping
- Manage customer service
- Take care of returns
- Notify you when you need to restock products
- You decide the products and quantities you’d like to fulfill and send them our way.
- We receive products into our network and store them in Amazon fulfillment centers.
- As orders arrive, we pick, pack, and ship the products on your behalf.
- Amazon manages customer service and returns on these orders.
So if you’re looking to get your toes wet in the digital retail space, Amazon is a great place to start without having to handle the shipping yourself as long as you can keep your inventory regularly stocked at one of their fulfillment facilities.
Shopify is another great way to begin selling your food products online. And the good news is, you can utilize Shopify in tandem with Amazon. The more exposure you can get for your product, the better. If you are currently selling through another e-commerce store, Shopify will help you migrate everything over to their site. But if you’re just getting started, you can easily set up your very own online store right through your Shopify account.
In Shopify, you have two options to begin selling your food products online: you can use their very own web-builder to host your website connected to Shopify. Or you can connect your existing website to Shopify so that your customers can check out easily without you having to worry about using USPS or UPS to personally ship your products.
Similar to “Fulfillment by Amazon”, Shopify provides a service to take care of all of your order fulfillment. This service is known as drop-shipping. This is what Shopify has to say:
“Dropshipping lets you sell products by using a supplier that holds the inventory and ships the product for you. You pay the wholesale price to the supplier, while controlling the price that your customers see in your Shopify store. When a customer places an order in your store, you purchase the products from the supplier and select how to ship the product directly to your customer. You don’t need to hold any inventory or ship items yourself.”
You can learn even more about the drop-shipping process here.
So whether you go the Amazon or the Shopify route, you’re handled as far as your order fulfillment goes. And as long as you’ve got that nutrition label ready to go as well, what do you have to lose? Go sell your food product online! What are you waiting for?