When Bob McClure wanted to level up his family pickle business, he found shared commercial space during a tofu factory. The healthy bacteria within the air caused by the fermentation process of the soybeans wont to make tofu fermented his first batch of pickles which all needed to be scrapped.
In every new business, there are hard lessons to be learned, and every industry comes with its own unique complications and legal considerations. The food industry, though? It’s in its own league. there’s a dense forest of data (and misinformation), more risk of legal consequences, and a volatile supply chain that will be suffering from anything from weather to, well, healthy airborne bacteria.
If your passion may be jewelry and you’re looking to sell your living-room-made embroidered bracelets online, the barrier to entry is fairly low. And your product probably won’t make someone sick. With food, however, safety is usually a priority. National and regional government organizations closely regulate and monitor the food industry to make sure public safety, but the onus is on the producer and therefore the merchant to stay to the principles and be obsessive about quality.
If that’s not daunting enough, running a food business also involves a fragile inventory dance to avoid spoilage and waste, which may cost a replacement business tons of cash.
If your business idea is just too good to not pursue, and if you’re able to combat the challenge, welcome, intrepid entrepreneur. We’re here to assist you to succeed and sell items online. I waded through the ocean of data and consulted some experts so you don’t need to. during this post, I’ll cover everything from production to shipping and, ultimately, the way to sell a product online for free of charge.
Meet the experts
Bob McClure, co-owner, McClure’s Pickles
Glenford Jameson, food lawyer, G.S. Jameson & Company; podcaster, Welcome to the Food Court
Jodi Bager, founder, JK Gourmet
Daniel Patricio, owner, Bull & Cleaver
Note: Every country and region differs in terms of food laws and licensing requirements, and a few industries, like dairy and alcohol, could also be subject to additional rules. make certain to consult a lawyer and your government for information specific to your business and region. For the needs of this post, information and advice are going to be general, unless otherwise noted.
In many cases, the simplest online business ideas are born out of passions or hobbies. If you create jams for friends and family from strawberries grown in your own backyard, that’s an honest place to start out. You already know the method and have had experience honing and testing the recipes.
Bob McClure and his brother Joe grew up making pickles with their grandma Lala, and it had been her family recipe that ultimately inspired their business, McClure’s Pickles. An actor and a psychology major, respectively, they didn’t know the primary thing about business or manufacturing, but their tried-and-true family recipe was their foundation.
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If you’ve got a thought already, test its viability. Is there a marketplace for this product? If it’s a saturated market, how can your product differ? Is there an untapped niche or sub-audience? Also, consider if yours may be a product that will easily be sold online and shipped—consider legalities (say, with liquor), fragility, and time period (does it require refrigeration?).
If you don’t yet have a product idea, check out current food trends for ideas. One source predicts that mocktails, plant-based proteins, and kombucha beer are among 2020’s hottest foods. copy the claims together with your own sleuthing, though: check out search volume and Google Trends, and inspect the competition.
When the McClures decided to supply a premium pickled product, that they had little or no competition. quite a decade later, pickling has a renaissance moment, and Bob welcomes the competition. “Yeah, there’s competition, but it’s the proper sort of competition if it’s bringing awareness to highly specialized, quality-driven entrepreneurial products,” he says. “It helps improve our entire category.”
Food business ideas
Does your idea tap into an existing niche category? Explore:
Gourmet, artisanal, small-batch
Dietary restrictions: allergen-free, gluten-free, nut-free, etc.
Certified organic, natural, fair trade
Ethical and religious: vegan, vegetarian, kosher, halal
Jodi Bager’s business, JK Gourmet, was designed to assist her to manage colitis, and her audience is formed from people also living with colitis and other sorts of bowel disease. She produces healthy snack options without the ingredients that commonly trigger her condition. “We also address the requirements of the growing paleo community,” Jodi says, “and we’re appealing to a wider audience than ever before.”
Ideas for beginners
Look into easy first-time food-businesses that need low investment, minimal equipment, and fewer shipping challenges and legal restrictions. Thirteen-year-old Charlie Cabdish makes and sells candied pecans from his family’s home. It’s a business he can still run from a domestic kitchen—between schoolwork and basketball practice—nearly three years after launch.
Other product ideas:
Canned and pickled products
Baked good ingredient kits
Raw ingredients (flours, etc.)
Coffee and tea