How to Sell Food Commercially
Owning and operating a commercial business is different from preparing food in your home kitchen and serving it to your loved ones. Selling food commercially requires a smart business model for bringing in money while getting your food products into customers' hands. Base your successful food company business model on creating appealing items in volume while keeping expenses low enough to earn a profit.
You must comply with licensing and regulatory requirements to sell food commercially; these requirements vary according to where you live and how widely you are distributing your products. Some states have cottage kitchen laws that allow you to produce food in your home kitchen in limited quantities and sell directly to end users, such as at farmers' markets. Most cities and counties require you to produce commercial food in a commercial kitchen. If you are wholesaling food within your state, your kitchen must also be licensed by your state's department of agriculture; you must obtain certification from the USDA if wholesaling products in multiple states. In addition, managers and employees must obtain food handler's permits.
Recipe development for commercial sales is similar to preparing food for consumption at home -- your offerings should taste good and be visually appealing. However, to sell commercial food you must also develop recipes that are cost effective and can be prepared in bulk. The cost of your ingredients should total 28 to 35 percent of the price you plan to charge for the product. Experiment with recipes to prepare your product in volume, and test to make sure that large-scale production does not affect recipe ratios or change product quality.
Unless you are serving fresh product directly to customers such as a bakery or restaurant, you must develop packaging for your food product. Food packaging should be attractive and entice customers to buy. Labels should contain information required by licensing authorities, such as ingredients lists and nutritional information. In addition, a food product package is a marketing opportunity with space for you to mention selling points, such as organic ingredients or a gluten-free recipe.
The best way to market a commercial food product is to encourage potential customers to taste it. If you plan to wholesale your product or sell it at a venue such as a farmers' market, first bring taste samples to store buyers or market administrators. Once you have passed this initial hurdle and are selling directly to customers, offer samples by doing in store product demos or offering tastes at your retail venue. Whenever possible, also offer tastes to spokespeople, such as local celebrities, who can help promote your product.