Starting a Food Business – our Top Ten Tips to Success

In the last couple of months we have been inundated with people looking for advice about starting up their food businesses; so we thought it would be a great idea to share our top tips on how to have a successful first year in your food business . For all of you out there who have the product, and have the passion – but just need that guidance and direction.

Here are the Top 10 Things we recommend you do in your start-up phase:

Consumer Research
This is critical as you’ll need to be able to prove to retailers that there is demand for your products and that consumers like your brand; knowing them inside out will help you to tailor your product offering more accurately too.

You’ll need a clear picture of what your selling price will need to be to make profit and also check that this selling price will fit in your target market place – building in retailers and/or wholesalers margins early on will ensure you have no nasty surprised further down the line.

SALSA certification is usually the best bet in the beginning. It was set up with the express aim of helping small businesses and is now
widely recognised by the retail trade as an acceptable form of accreditation.

Brand Positioning
It is important to start thinking about this at an early stage. Knowing what your USP (unique selling point) is will be critical in helping you target your consumers effectively. Don’t forget you are competing for space on shelf against a lot of other brands – give buyers a compelling reason to list yours – and occupying a unique position in the market place is pretty compelling!

Are you going to be a Ltd company? VAT registered? What are the financial implications/benefits? Do you need an accountant? How are you going to fund your business growth? Will you need to look at attracting investors to help you scale up in future? If so, now’s the time to be working on getting your rand established so you have a strong platform from which to approach them.

You will need to think about what type of packaging to put your product in so the product
inside is safe and legal, as well as ensuring it appeals to your consumer. And don’t forget about stand out on shelf – your pack will have to work hard on shelf for you to encourage shoppers to pick it up

Label Requirements
We’ve heard horror stories about people copying label info from products similar to their own, and subsequently ending up in sticky situations when that doesn’t meet legal requirements! Our advice is – don’t do it! Make sure that your labels meet the new requirements coming about this year – it’s not worth the risk.

Shelf life and barcodes
To find out how to get your product shelf life tested you can contact your local EHO (Environmental Health Officer) – their details will be available on your local council website under Environmental Health. Barcodes are quick and easy to get – visit the likes of for more info and to buy a barcode online for just a few pounds.

If you are thinking of using a wholesale distributor further down the line to try to get into stores further afield, it is a good idea to build their margin in right at your initial costing stage, so you can see whether your brand will be profitable in the long term. Whilst the effect of this extra margin on your profits may seem a bit scary, don’t forget that the increased volume will eventually bring down all your other costs, and using a wholesaler will also save you time and money on chasing payments, handling orders, delivery invoicing, etc.

Marketing Plan
Whilst it doesn’t have to be a multi-million pound TV campaign, it is worth, even at the very beginning, having a skeleton marketing plan in place. You will need to raise awareness of your brand, build relationships with your potential customers and demonstrate to retailers that you’re doing your bit to drive your own sales. Starting out with social media, a blog, some interesting plans for food fairs or targeting your local press will be enough in the very early days, as well as a willingness to support your farmshop, deli or other stockists with tastings in store, for example.

We hope this has given you some ideas of where you need to focus your attention in that all important start-up phase. We’d love to hear what challenges you faced in your first year of trading – just drop us a line at [email protected]

For more tips on how to grow your food business  sign up for our FREE Relish Food Marketing Leaflet