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Anyone here with prior experience developing a food product/brand?

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guitarguru12

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Jan 1, 2021
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One of two ideas currently being spitballed is that of developing a food brand - I've identified a niche and key demographic with an itch that needs scratching, and am looking to explore launching a line of products over the next 12 months.

Has anyone here had experience of working with producers/distributors to get food products made and shipped - be it either to store shelves or to online retailers (Amazon FBA etc.)?

If anyone were able to point me in the direction of a resource (book, site, blog etc.) that covers the process of building and scaling a business in this area, I would be very appreciative.

For example - how does one get 100, 500, 1000 units of a prototype product made to spec (accurately, tasting the same as your prototype...), packaged and labelled, for example?


Another world I'm wading in to with precious little knowledge - but with a hunger to learn and a humble beginner's mindset.

Many thanks in advance
gg12.
 

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PapaGang

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I work in the industry.

The short of it: You need to make connections with people on the inside. People who have relationships with suppliers, co-packers, and retail (chain) stores. Someone who is capable of brokering deals and giving you knowledge about best practices. This is a path filled with gatekeepers. Vendors, producers, distributors, and retailers. Each of them require some astute negotiating and sales skills on your part. It's complex to say the least.

BUT before you do that, you need to validate the product and idea. Start small, use the advantages you have (e-commerce, food shows, farmer's markets, small events, mom-and-pop retailers who might let you conduct a sampling on a weekend), validate your offerings through sales data, then when you start growing and acquire enough capital, you can start to talk to mom-and-pop food contract manufacturers to have your recipes formulated and made on a larger scale once you hit that rate of growth.

The Fancy Food Show in New York is a prime place to get your products noticed, but you better be prepared and knowledgeable about the process and be able to answer some probing questions from potential retailers, as well as have a strong shelf presence, a niche product, and the right price. Retailers hate taking on a new product, only to find out that the next time they place an order you are back-ordered because your producer can't fulfill your demand fast enough.

It will most likely take years and will be a long journey. However, as someone who knows of an entrepreneur who is on the verge of getting his products in large grocery chains across the US, it can turn out to be very lucrative.

There is no book that I know of that will guide you through it. If I had more than 4 years of industry experience, I might write the book myself because it might very well be an unfulfilled need in the marketplace. I searched Amazon and came up with zero.

Resources:

Good luck.
 
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PapaGang

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I don't know what food product you are looking at creating, but I'll give some examples of very small mom-and-pop producers who work with smaller retailers on lower demand capacities. I'll include a directory of co-packers in Minnesota. These places are almost unknown, some of them don't even have a web presence, so they can be tough to find.


Here's a national one:

This might give you some insight as to how to proceed.
 

WJK

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I work in the industry.

The short of it: You need to make connections with people on the inside. People who have relationships with suppliers, co-packers, and retail (chain) stores. Someone who is capable of brokering deals and giving you knowledge about best practices. This is a path filled with gatekeepers. Vendors, producers, distributors, and retailers. Each of them require some astute negotiating and sales skills on your part. It's complex to say the least.

BUT before you do that, you need to validate the product and idea. Start small, use the advantages you have (e-commerce, food shows, farmer's markets, small events, mom-and-pop retailers who might let you conduct a sampling on a weekend), validate your offerings through sales data, then when you start growing and acquire enough capital, you can start to talk to mom-and-pop food contract manufacturers to have your recipes formulated and made on a larger scale once you hit that rate of growth.

The Fancy Food Show in New York is a prime place to get your products noticed, but you better be prepared and knowledgeable about the process and be able to answer some probing questions from potential retailers, as well as have a strong shelf presence, a niche product, and the right price. Retailers hate taking on a new product, only to find out that the next time they place an order you are back-ordered because your producer can't fulfill your demand fast enough.

It will most likely take years and will be a long journey. However, as someone who knows of an entrepreneur who is on the verge of getting his products in large grocery chains across the US, it can turn out to be very lucrative.

There is no book that I know of that will guide you through it. If I had more than 4 years of industry experience, I might write the book myself because it might very well be an unfulfilled need in the marketplace. I searched Amazon and came up with zero.

Resources:

Good luck.
I agree. When I was young, I was married to a man in that industry. And I helped him. We set up production lines and commercial kitchens. He also did the hot food program for a major oil company's chain of convenience stores.

I can tell you that it's a hard market to break into. The big producers have the market pretty much tied up. Shelving space at grocery stores takes big bucks for the space fee and advertising. Product distribution is also a major problem for new products from small producers.

Also, there are all kinds of special rules for where the food is produced -- especially for meat and dairy. The health department rules are different in all localities, which are added to the Federal USDA meat and dairy requirements.

The part that was hair raising for me is the legal liability of the industry. Everyone in the supply chain is on the hook for any problems. Your product can leave your facility in fine condition. Then the truck that hauls it has a problem with its cooling system. If someone eats that food and get sick, you're still in trouble. (I saw a company that was about 100 years old, which was making Mexican-style cheese, that went down for one contamination outbreak.)

You must know what you are doing. I have an espresso bar in my office which has a limited food license. If I sell a cookie that I baked at home, and I get caught, the fine is $5,000.
 

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