Business At A Glance
Startup Costs: $2,000 – $10,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Online Operation? Yes
When people go grocery shopping, they want not just a can of soup butsomething special. In an age when very few have the time to stay homeand bake cookies, put up preserves or pickles, or spend hours over thatsimmering pot of soup or spaghetti sauce, most of us scan thesupermarket shelves for take-home goodness.
So if you’re renowned amongfamily and friends for your famous chili or killer brownies orchampagne jelly, then the specialty foods business might be your pieceof pie. Specialty foods can range from salad dressing to chocolatesauce to fragrant breads. If you can make it, you can sell it–providedyou know how. The specialty foods business is more about marketing thancooking, getting your product on the shelves and then off again intocustomers’ shopping carts. The advantages to this business are thatit’s creative and challenging, and if you believe in your product, itcan be extremely rewarding. Besides the ability to whip up a meansoufflé or sorbet, you’ll need a working knowledge of safefood-handling practices, health regulations and product liability laws.A flair for food packaging is also a must–nobody’s going to buy yourdelightful danishes if they look dumpy.
Your customers can be specialty markets like gourmet grocers, health-and natural-foods shops (if your product fits this description),department stores, restaurants, coffee bars and gift shops.
You canalso sell at flea markets, arts and crafts festivals, farmers’ marketsand through mail order. Because the competition for supermarket shelfspace is fierce and because you’ll be expected to pay a ‘slotting’ feeof as much as $25,000 to get your wares on the shelves, you’ll want tosave marketing to major chains for the future when you know yourproduct’s a success and you can afford the fee. The best way to startis by letting your customers sample your wares. Take your products toshopkeepers and let them savor the taste. Then ask if you cantest-market a few jars or packages on their shelves. Offer to helppromote your product yourself. In-store demos are terrific ways to dothis.
Customers sample your goodies and talk to you, which gives them asense of connection–sort of like tasting from grandma’s spoon.
Onceyou’ve landed a selection of retail accounts, you can attract fooddistributors, who will take your wares to the national and eveninternational level. You’ll find these people–as well as salesrepresentatives to sell your products to other venues–through industryassociations and at trade shows. If you choose the mail order route,you’ll direct-mail a brochure or catalog to lists of people who buyfoods by mail. You’ll also want to develop your own mailing list byhaving everyone who purchases your products at flea markets, festivalsor other events sign a guest book with address lines. Another option isto place small magazine ads so customers can order products by mail.
In most states it’s illegal to manufacture food products in your ownkitchen, but you can rent a commercial facility or have your own cozycorner converted to a Health Department-approved site. Your best bet,however, is not to do the cooking yourself but to find a co-packer,someone who’ll have your raw ingredients and all the packing materialsalready on-site and who will follow your recipe, leaving you free forthose all-important marketing tasks.