Top 10 Tips to Start a Food Business

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Food and drink is both the largest manufacturing sector in the UK and one of the most popular types of business to start from home. Lots of food businesses have made the leap from kitchen table to household name. Whatever your ambition our top ten tips will get you off to a solid start.

1. Make sure the recipes work!

When developing a product for retail, practise definitely makes perfect. Trial your recipe on as many people as you can and get as much feedback as possible. Always remember, bad comments are great feedback and can only make your product even better than it already is!

2. Contact your local Trading Standards Officer

They are actually there to help and not hinder, so being in touch first with your friendly Trading Standards person is crucial as they can advise on what can be stated on your product labels and any legal requirements you will need to adhere to. They can even help with nutritional information and product testing and it’s really important to have them on board before you actually print any labels to avoid costly printing changes.

3. Have all your environmental health and food hygiene certificates in place

Your borough or council’s website will have all the contact details and they are extremely helpful and offer food business advice as well as cost effective food hygiene certification programmes. Even if you are making everything in your kitchen, they will be able to advise you on what you need to have in place to comply with hygiene requirements.

4. Network, network, network

Attend regular networking events and take samples of your product wherever you go. You never know who you may meet and tempt with your wonderful creation. Find business networking events through your local Chamber of Commerce and other networking groups and speak to as many people as you can about your business idea and products. The more people hear about it and love your product the more the word spreads and before you know it, your wonderful product will be recommended to a food buyer who ends up stocking it.

Network online too. Twitter, Facebook and other social media makes it so much easier to engage directly with your customers. It’s a great way to get direct feedback and enables you to offer discounts, prizes and recipe ideas.

5. Start local

A great way to gauge your market is by selling directly to customers at your local market. Hiring a stall isn’t too expensive and it’s a brilliant way to meet your customers and understand their needs. It’s easier also to get your products into local delis and farm shops as most businesses like to support other local businesses. Once you develop brand awareness and loyal customers in local shops and markets it’s easier to approach the multiples.

6. Find the right distributors

Most large retailers and chains work with distributors, so it’s key to identify the best distributor for your products.  Ask the retailers directly who they prefer to work with or contact other similar food business and ask which distributors they work with and who they recommend.

7. Understand your margins and price accordingly!

Most retailers expect a 50% margin and if working with distributors this can be even higher, so it’s crucial to understand all of your costs to ensure your recommended retail price includes the expected margins for distributors and retailers as well as yourself.

8. Attend industry trade shows

This is the best way to meet buyers in an environment where they are actually looking for new products and where you can effectively demonstrate your product. Most trade events have special prices for small businesses just starting out and it’s always worth asking for discounts or reduced rates.

9. Make excellent customer service a priority

Find ways of making customers feel valued and always ensure you handle any complaints quickly and to their full satisfaction. Mistakes do sometimes happen, but it is how we rectify them that matters and most customers are very understanding when they realise you are making the effort to deal with their issue effectively.

10. Be passionate and love what you do!

If you don’t love your product and don’t love what you are doing then you are in the wrong business.  Enthusiasm is contagious: if you are passionate and love what you are doing, so will others, it’s as simple as that.


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