How to Start a Food Business: Expert Tips for Food Manufacturers
I get the pleasure of working with first-time food manufacturers quite often in my line of work, and for me, it’s one of the highlights of my job. I absolutely love hearing about people’s creative processes, their products, and how they got their big ideas. Of course, I also get to learn about their failures, their setbacks, and their struggles when navigating the world of food manufacturing.
There’s certainly a lot that goes into starting a food business and since I’ve learned so much from all my clients’ successes and failures over the years, I wanted to share some tips for how to start a food business. I want to keep things simple today to cover the basics, but I promise the advice I offer will be very useful if you are just starting out.
Tip #1: Test, Test, and Retest Your Recipes!
This may seem obvious to some, but I can’t stress this point enough. Recipe testing is one of the most important parts of starting a food business, so it’s important to do it right. Here is a list of some of the things I recommend doing during the recipe creation/testing process to make sure you end up with the best final product possible:
- Tweak it and try it: Create two or three variations of your product, slightly tweaking the recipe each time to find the right texture, consistency, flavor, and color.
- Give free samples: Prepare samples for family and friends along with a feedback form that they can write their comments and criticisms on.
- Perfect your recipe: Be sure the recipe can be easily duplicated and produces consistent results when you remake the recipe.
- Keep records: It’s all too easy to get mixed up when testing recipes and creating different versions, so I’d definitely recommend keeping clear records of each tweak you make and what the finished product was like. Online nutrition analysis software like LabelCalc can be useful for this part of the process because its duplicate function allows you to easily make a copy of your main recipe and adjust its ingredients without having to rewrite the entire thing.
It’s important not to rush the recipe testing processes because having a great product is the foundation of any successful food business. Just be patient and enjoy being creative in the kitchen!
Tip #2: Use an Online Software to Make a Nutrition Facts Panel.
Once you’ve perfected your product, it’s time to make a nutrition facts panel for it. Not only will this help you get ready to pitch your product to grocery stores and get it on shelves as soon as possible, but it will make your product seem more professional and trustworthy to future customers. While it is true that food manufacturers who are just starting out are exempt from complying to FDA labeling laws, if you really want your product to take off, it is a good idea to have a nutrition facts panel anyway. After all, it’s better to be ready for the rapid growth of your business than to be unprepared.
The first thing I’d recommend you do before you start making your nutrition facts panel is to be sure you understand FDA food labeling guidelines. Once you know the basics, I suggest finding a reputable, FDA-compliant online nutrition analysis software to create your nutrition facts panel and ingredient list. With software like LabelCalc, all you have to do is input your recipe and serving size, then your FDA-compliant nutrition facts panel will be instantly generated. Then, you can simply download and print your label and bring it with you to your product pitches.
Tip #3: Design, Printing, and Barcodes
Now that you’ve got your nutrition facts panel ready to go, it’s time to settle on your packaging and obtain a barcode for your product. Essentially, you need to design the package, find a printer and a co-packer, and have your packaged product tested for safety.
You also need to purchase a barcode for your product, which I recommend doing through an online barcode company, like Simply Barcodes. They are great because they typically have a turnaround time of only an hour and the process is very easy. Once you place an order for a barcode online, you will be assigned official UPC number issued by the GS1 (the governing body of barcodes). Using these numbers, the company makes your barcode and emails it to you. Once you receive it, all you have to do is download it and incorporate it into the design of your package.
Tip #4: Stay Organized.
Perhaps the most difficult part of being a first-time food manufacturer is adjusting to the fact that there is simply so much to do! Not only do you have to create an amazing food product, but you also have to figure out how to package your food product, how to get barcodes for your product, and how to market it once it is in stores.
It can be really useful to work with an expert food labeling consultant because they can help you stay on track and offer advice on how to navigate the process from product creation to retail. They will not only be incredibly helpful for all your food labeling questions, but they will also be able to assist you with prioritizing all the things you have to do to sell your food product. It’s invaluable to work with someone who has such extensive knowledge of the food industry when you are just starting out—trust me on this one!
How to Start a Food Business with Confidence
People always ask me what the secret to starting a great food business is, and I always say the same thing—confidence. In this industry, the confidence you need to succeed ultimately comes from the three tips I gave above: having a perfected product you believe in, creating an FDA-compliant nutrition facts panel that provides consumers with accurate information about your product, and staying organized throughout the process. If you can achieve these things, I trust your food business will be a delicious success.
LabelCalc is an industry-leading online nutrition analysis software used by first-time food manufacturers and experienced food companies alike. To get started with an account, contact us today.