The Foodpreneur's Beginning Tips for Starting a Food Business

The Journey from Kitchen to the Shelf and on to your Consumer's Plate

Midsection of owner holding dessert in tray while standing at counter in restaurant
Maskot / Getty Images

Starting any business in today's environment is difficult, but the food business has an advantage over other businesses; we all have to eat! We also have different tastes and desires in our diets which allow very "niche" based food products to succeed.

Is Passion Enough to Make a New Product a Success? 

Industry statistics make it clear that you need passion, but practical passion composed of great marketing, product positioning, and shelf strategy is necessary to increase your chances of success in the consumer food arena.

Most food entrepreneurs are high in passion, and like most people new to business have a large degree of "I don't know what I don't know." You probably think all you need is a great tasting product to get on the shelf. Well, that sounds logical because most of us like great tasting food. In the food business, great taste is akin to a car having brakes. When you buy a car, you expect it to have brakes. You do not make your purchase decision based on this attribute of the car.

Great taste is an expectation on the consumer's part. Technically, you can say it is a selling feature, but in reality, it is an expectation the consumer has when they pick the product off of the shelf.

Newcomers to Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) do not realize this is a distribution channel intensive business with many gatekeepers along the way. Gatekeepers in the business are buyers, merchandisers, distributors, and brokers.

Additionally, the business of food has a high degree of complexity that newcomers don't' know about, creating hurdles that slow you down or stop you in your tracks.

Food Product Ideas Start in Your Kitchen

Food is an idea many people pursue as a business. Besides the fact we love to eat, food is easy to prototype; you can do it in your kitchen inexpensively. You also have the enjoyment of sampling for your friends and making them happy with the wonderful recipes you took from concept to plate.

Foodpreneur clients, Wine Duets, Lycoberry, Fun to Eat Fruit and World Empanadas all started in the Kitchen, and all share the practical passion for recognizing that food is ALSO a business.

Who is Your Competition?

The Fancy Food Show is run by the National Association to the Specialty Trade NASFT and occurs twice a year. It is an amazing array of the most fabulous specialty foods, both domestic and imported. For anyone thinking of pursuing their passion for food, this show is a must-see. Over a three day period, you will have a firm foundation of what products are currently in distribution and new products not yet on the shelves. It is fun "visual" market research helping you decide if your food idea is a real opportunity providing a unique offering to the consumer or one of many "me too" items. If you see too much competition, then you know it is time to go back to the drawing board. That does not mean you give up; it tells you to consider a new idea.​​

Your Recipe for Success is Knowing Your Market Research Facts

The competition, both large and small, are becoming very entrepreneurial. They are getting really good at coming up with ideas, determining if the idea is a profitable opportunity and then successfully executing great shelf strategy. The recent IRI annual New Product Pace Setter report shows less than 20% of new products exceed $7.5 Million in sales annually within 18 months of their introduction.

Each article to follow will present one or more principles to help you learn a lot more than just creating great tasting food to have a chance of getting on the shelf.

If you have made the journey from Kitchen to Shelf to the Plate and you want to share your experiences, good or bad, drop me a note. Maybe you will be featured in an article?