Food Manufacturing for Beginners

For the last 15 years, we have helped budding food entrepreneurs, small food businesses, and established manufacturers with their nutrition labeling and FDA-compliance needs. And we’ve found after nearly 2 decades in business that those who need resources and assistance the most are those who are just beginning to consider bringing their food product idea to life. If that’s you, it can be difficult to know where to begin. There’s a lot of information out there when it comes to learning how to get your product from your kitchen to the retail shelf. There’s FDA-regulations, nutrition analysis reporting, business establishment, lab analysis, production, packaging, and the list goes on and on. And while there’s a laundry list of tasks to check off before you can bring your product to life, there is an equally long list of resources and tools you can use to accomplish your food manufacturing goals. So if you have an exciting new recipe that you are day-dreaming about bringing to grocery stores, Amazon, you name it — this food manufacturing for beginners resource guide is for you.

Where to Begin?

So you’ve come up with a food product idea. Congratulations! This is such an exciting time. Let us be the first to say that bringing your food idea to life is one of the most rewarding experiences. Perhaps you’ve made this recipe hundreds of times for friends and loved ones and they have encouraged you to explore food retail. Or maybe you’ve happened upon a unique sauce concoction and you just know that everyone would love it. Either way, the journey has begun! But what exactly does that even mean? Well, you could actually go a couple different directions. You could:

  1. Create your product in your kitchen and package it there using DIY resources
  2. Hire a contract manufacturer/co-packer to create and package your food product for you (Outsourcing)

The route you choose to go is entirely up to you! Depending on your time and resources, either option is viable. Let’s explore both in our food manufacturing for beginners guide.

The DIY Manufacturer

This route is fairly self-explanatory. You are completely in the driver’s seat. So, you’ve got your recipe idea, but what else do you need in order to begin bringing your product to market? Click the links below to find resources for everything you need to get started:

  1. Product Packaging 
  2. Nutrition Report/Nutrition Facts Panel
  3. Package Label
  4. Website and/or Shopify Account

For an even deeper dive into selling your food product online as a DIY manufacturer, check out this article. 

Outsourcing Your Product 

Outsourcing is a great option for someone who is interested in bringing their product to market but perhaps doesn’t have the spare time to do all of the research or the space to produce their product. By utilizing a co-packer, you can quickly accomplish the product creation, production, packaging and labeling in one quick swoop.

food manufacturing for beginners

Finding the right copacker to product and package your food product for you will save you a lot of the time spent during the DIY route.

Co-packers are food processors that have extra manufacturing capacity and offer their services for a fee. This is often an attractive option for people starting in the food business. The product and its package must be matched to the co-packer and its available equipment.

So how do you find the right co-packer? Can you believe that there’s a service for that too? You can be matched with a contract manufacturer or a co-packer in your area who will bring your idea into reality and produce enough to supply the demand of an online store or even space at a grocery retail store.

Nutrition Facts Panels

In order to sell food within the United States, you must have an FDA-Compliant nutrition facts panel, allergen statement and ingredient statement.

Unless you have a fried or fermented product, the simplest and most cost-effective route to go is to use a service like LabelCalc where you can quickly create a label, or have one created for you.

Creating a nutrition facts panel for your products is as easy as entering your product ingredients into the LabelCalc platform and identifying their measurements. LabelCalc will then quickly calculate the nutrient values for all of the ingredients you have entered and populate the report into a nutrition facts panel format that is FDA approved and comes with the corresponding ingredient and allergen statement.

Next Steps: Selling & Fulfilling Orders

So, you’ve got your product recipe, your product packaging, label and nutrition facts panel, so what should you do next? Well that depends on where you would like to sell your product. If you want to keep your costs low, selling your food product online is a great option. However, unless you want to be boxing and fulfilling orders through your local post office or UPS, you might want to look into website or online services who will help you with order fulfillment.

All-in-one web services like Shopify, give you the opportunity to create a website, process payments and fulfill orders all from one place. Shopify combines an e-commerce website with a fulfillment center that you can drop off your inventory to. Then when an order comes in, the fulfillment center will box and ship your products out for you. Options like this are great tools for the new manufacturer.

If you’re looking to go the more traditional route by going into a physical grocery store, your path will look a bit different. Instead of automatically setting up a website and then beginning to sell your products, you must first meet with the store’s general manager to see if they are currently taking on any new products. If so, you will likely have to present your product to the store’s manager and then what’s called the “buyer” for the store. If they like your product, they will purchase a number of your products at a whole-sale price and then mark them up for retail sale. More on that journey and experience can be found here. 

No matter what phase of your manufacturing journey you’re on, retail store or selling online, we are here every step of the way. Learn more about industry trends, food manufacturing tips and other related information through our FDA Resource center. And if you need a nutrition label for your new food product, you know where to go! 

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