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Getting Products To Market


Pam R
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We make some really good salad dressing. Years ago we went to the trouble of having a couple of our recipes tested to see if they could be made shelf-stable, but nothing ever came of it.

I've seriously been thinking about this lately. What is involved in getting a product tested, bottled and to market. I know that there is a testing facility in my province. They will test the recipes and work with you to alter them. But then what? Are there companies that will take my recipes, produce and package them? Is it possible to do this without sinking a lot of money into it? (I realize money will be involved, but can I do this without producing 1,000,000 bottles of Pam's Secret Zingy Cole Slaw Dressing?)

Has anybody done this? Any thoughts or suggestions on what to do? I really don't know where to get started or even if this is a viable idea. What do you think?

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Great question. Pretty much depends on how much you want to do it and how strident/stringent the rules and regulations are in your part of the globe.

Oh but yes you should do it. I should do it too. Just any minute now I'm getting it together (again...and again after that till I get it right) :biggrin:

Oh yes for sure do it. I'll buy some. If you can market to me over the border.

It will probably cost a lot. You gotta want it. But dreams come true so at least keep wanting it.

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I've done a little poking around since posting earlier. I found this site. It's a link to the Food Development Centre in my province. I'm going to contact them to see if I can get some more information. (I'd like to know about fees, requirements, etc.)

Kate - Have you really considered this? Looked into it at all?

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If someone else foots the bill for the packaging design, graphic design, distribution and marketing, you can bet your sweet bippy they'll be taking most of your profits further down the line. Assuming you're not independently wealthy, you're going to have to start small, sell locally, invest wisely, and wait to see if it catches on well enough to justify ramping up production.

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I'm not sure somebody else has to foot the bill for all of those things, nor do I think I have to be wealthy. The FDC that I linked to above is a government organization that is there to help people get products ready for mass production. But they are not for profit. There may also be some funding available - but that will take a little more research.

As for getting things into stores - well, first of all, I have a store. Second, I have a good relationship with at least 4 national distributors. I plan on phoning the FDC tomorrow to get more information and hope to take a trip out to see the facility in the near future. I'll also get in touch with two of my suppliers. One is new(ish) and looking for good products to distribute. The other may have mentioned that they had a production facility themselves. (though I may be wrong on that)

I also remembered today that we used to be members of the Manitoba Food Processors Association. There could be a lot of good information available through them.

Having said that - starting small does seem like a reasonable idea. One, maybe two products to start. All of this testing and work costs money (hourly rates). Our labelling laws in Canada are quite strict, and I know that it costs a lot to get a nutritional label done for each product. And then it has to be bilingual. But I'm getting way ahead of myself. First, more info. is needed.

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The (not many) folks I know who did this successfully started with small-batch retail sold out of a few shops. That meant that they could get a sense of the market, price point, and so on without a big initial investment. If you sell out, you create buzz; if you don't, it's only a few hundred bucks lost.

The step into contracting out the development and manufacture of the product involved financial commitments that made that sort of initial step prudent.

Chris Amirault

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Pam -- Check into the labeling laws in Canada. In the USA, products from small food processors can be exempt from nutritional labeling if the business has fewer than 100 full-time equivalent employees and sells fewer than 100,000 units annually. Many specialty foods entrepreneurs use this exemption because it allows them to get a start without investing big bucks in product testing.

Reference: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/fo...l/newlabel.html

SuzySushi

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My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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The (not many) folks I know who did this successfully started with small-batch retail sold out of a few shops. That meant that they could get a sense of the market, price point, and so on without a big initial investment. If you sell out, you create buzz; if you don't, it's only a few hundred bucks lost. 

The step into contracting out the development and manufacture of the product involved financial commitments that made that sort of initial step prudent.

These are all points we need to consider. I've contacted the FDC that I mentioned above to get more information and set up a meeting. I won't do anything without making sure I understand all of the issues before.

I do feel like I have a sense of the market and price points. I have personal experience in food retail, and I have great sources for info.

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Pam -- Check into the labeling laws in Canada.

I've had a hard time navigating my way through the Canadian Government websites.

From the Canadian Diabetes Association (which is pretty much what it said on a government site, word for word):

New and improved mandatory nutrition information on food labels, was introduced in January 2003 by Health Canada. Nutrition labelling became mandatory for most prepackaged foods on December 12, 2005. Smaller businesses have until December 12, 2007 to make the information available.

I *think* this means that even small companies will need to have full nutritional labels by the end of the year. In fact, when I bought a scale late last year, the companies I went to all said that they were under the impression that stores producing their own food for take-out will have to have these labels on all items soon - like a deli counter. (That's why the scales are now capable of printing these labels.)

Again, the government agency I'm contacting should have more info on this.

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I've done a little poking around since posting earlier.  I found this site. It's a link to the Food Development Centre in my province.  I'm going to contact them to see if I can get some more information.  (I'd like to know about fees, requirements, etc.)

Kate - Have you really considered this?  Looked into it at all?

Well I should have been more precise. My 'thing' is celebration food/cakes.

I've casually though about selling packaged goods like bakery goods. I don't think my salad dressings are necessarily retail-worthy. But I am currently floating a 'new deal.' This one might work! :biggrin:

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I'm not sure somebody else has to foot the bill for all of those things, nor do I think I have to be wealthy. The FDC that I linked to above is a government organization that is there to help people get products ready for mass production.  But they are not for profit.  There may also be some funding available - but that will take a little more research.

As for getting things into stores - well, first of all, I have a store.  Second, I have a good relationship with at least 4 national distributors.  I plan on phoning the FDC tomorrow to get more information and hope to take a trip out to see the facility in the near future.  I'll also get in touch with two of my suppliers.  One is new(ish) and looking for good products to distribute.  The other may have mentioned that they had a production facility themselves. (though I may be wrong on that) 

I also remembered today that we used to be members of the Manitoba Food Processors Association.  There could be a lot of good information available through them.

Having said that - starting small does seem like a reasonable idea.  One, maybe two products to start. All of this testing and work costs money (hourly rates). Our labelling laws in Canada are quite strict, and I know that it costs a lot to get a nutritional label done for each product. And then it has to be bilingual. But I'm getting way ahead of myself.  First, more info. is needed.

You seem to have all your own answers so I'm not sure what you're looking to get out of this thread.

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I would suggest you contact some local businesses that have done what you want to do. Off-hand, I can think of a few local products that went from farmers market or small production to larger production/distribution. Clodhoppers is one, and I can't remember the names of the other two, but one is a butterscotch which is sold at places like Cherry Tree Lane (or at least it was) and maybe Scoop 'n Weigh, and the other is dog biscuits (they used to sell at the St. Norbert's Farmers Market, and now they can be found at places like Scoop 'n Weigh on Corydon).

You might want to consider bottling it yourself first, and selling it at your own store. Then when it becomes more popular, you can branch out by selling to other local businesses, and so on and so on.

Edited to add: I found the dog biscuit company. It's Lucky Dog, and if I remember correctly, it's owned by a young couple. I used to buy their dog biscuits for a friend's dog who loved them. They made a very good product, and I think there was only a year or so between the time they were selling at the farmer's market and when they started selling to retail stores. Their website shows they are now have a nationally distributed product, and I think it has only been about 5 years since I first saw them at the market.

Still can't find the butterscotch info.

Found it! It's Sweet Truth Candy Company. They make a very good product, by the way.

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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I *think* this means that even small companies will need to have full nutritional labels by the end of the year.  In fact, when I bought a scale late last year, the companies I went to all said that they were under the impression that stores producing their own food for take-out will have to have these labels on all items soon - like a deli counter. (That's why the scales are now capable of printing these labels.)

Anything prepackaged will have to be labelled. A deli sandwich sold already plastic wrapped or in a plastic box needs to be labelled, but a sandwich made to order does not.

So for me, I can still sell someone their wedding cake but I can't sell them their packaged wedding cookies or truffle boxes unless I get everything tested. That puts a halt on the majority of my business, and I can't sell anything online now, which was the plan. :sad:

Best of luck with this venture Pam .... it sounds like a great idea. I'm sure once you're done jumping through all the hoops it'll be worth it. :smile:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry I haven't responded earlier - I was waiting on a callback from the FDC. I just spoke with their business development person and I'll be emailing him a couple of recipes for the product development people to take a look at, and then we'll set up an appointment (hopefully for the week after next). There's no charge at this point. Once they take a look at it and we have a meeting, if we choose to proceed, we discuss money.

Well I should have been more precise. My 'thing' is celebration food/cakes.

I've casually though about selling packaged goods like bakery goods. I don't think my salad dressings are necessarily retail-worthy. But I am currently floating a 'new deal.' This one might work!  :biggrin:

What kind of packaged goods? Please keep us posted on the 'new deal' - and good luck.

I would suggest you contact some local businesses that have done what you want to do.  Off-hand, I can think of a few local products that went from farmers market or small production to larger production/distribution.  Clodhoppers is one, and I can't remember the names of the other two, but one is a butterscotch which is sold at places like Cherry Tree Lane (or at least it was) and maybe Scoop 'n Weigh, and the other is dog biscuits (they used to sell at the St. Norbert's Farmers Market, and now they can be found at places like Scoop 'n Weigh on Corydon). 

You might want to consider bottling it yourself first, and selling it at your own store.  Then when it becomes more popular, you can branch out by selling to other local businesses, and so on and so on.

Rona - great ideas! Clodhoppers is a really great example.

We have been selling our dressings for years (using deli containers for them) - they've gone as far as London, England!

Anything prepackaged will have to be labelled. A deli sandwich sold already plastic wrapped or in a plastic box needs to be labelled, but a sandwich made to order does not.

This is a confusing issue. I just did a search to try to find out how much the testing would cost and I couldn't. What I did find, from this government site is that there are some exceptions to the law:

# Food products sold only in the retail establishment where they are prepared or processed;

# Individual servings of food intended for immediate consumption.

It seems that if I make it here, in my store, I will still be able to sell it out of the store without the nutrition label. Of course, this won't help my domination of the bottled salad dressing world.

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I've heard from a couple friends that one of the most expensive/hardest things to get is a UPC code for selling things in grocery stores. If you don't have one, most stores are unwilling to sell your stuff because the cashiers would have to enter it manually. Which seems to be a hard thing for some cashiers.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A little update.

Last week one of my distributors was in town, visiting from Toronto. We spoke to him about our idea so we could get some input from a potential distributor. He was very positive about it. We discussed starting with salad dressings vs. soups (which we've been thinking about) - and soups seem like a better idea.

Today we had our first meeting with a rep. from the FDC (food development centre) and he concurred. Apparently it's much easier to make something like jarred soup shelf-stable than dressings. (The soups get cooked, which means you have to make fewer changes to the recipe to make it last on the shelf.)

He directed me to some government agencies that might have some grants available and walked me through the steps of getting this done. Basically, I take my recipes to the centre and prepare them with the centre's staff testing things along the way (temps., times, weights, ect.). For soups we'd jar them and leave samples. They will then do the shelf-life tests, checking the products every 1-2 days.

This is also the agency that does the nutrition labelling for you. It turns out that it only costs about $100 a product (unless you use rare ingredients that aren't in their system). I was afraid it would cost a lot more.

You can pay them to do everything - testing, developing, sourcing, buying, cooking, packaging, labelling, shipping, etc. Or, you can pay them for specific things and do the rest yourself. I can actually rent their facility and equipment and go into their federally inspected plant and do a 500 L batch of soup (with their staff there to make sure the equipment is working). All I have to do it pay to rent the space and equipment and then do the work myself. So this means to start off, I can do smaller batches and sell/give them out of my store to get feedback - and get them to the distributor to get their feedback. If it takes off, I can pay them to produce and package it, or go to another plant with the formulae and have them prep and pack it.

So I have a lot of homework to do. I have to decide which 4 recipes I want to work on, work out exact weights, times and temps during cooking. I have to research containers (glass vs. plastic?), grants, kosher supervision, and many other things. But now I have a lot of information that I didn't have last week, so things are moving along.

BTW - it looks like it would be about $1000 to get the UPC codes (and $795 annually after that), and apparently it can take a while. There's information about it here. (Here for Canada.)

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I wish you the best of luck with your endeavor, Pam.

Here we have several places that help people do this sort of thing - here's a link for one of them, which is through the Cooperative Extension. Some very nice success stories. :smile:

The other option is to look for "Small Business Incubators" which are run through different government programs - they do basically the same things as the program listed above. (In this area there is one in Radford, Virginia - linked to Radford University - it is also very well regarded and very helpful.)

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks, Karen. Very interesting link. I think the agency I'm working with is very similar.

We're now trying to decide which 4 soups we want to work on. Our two bestsellers are carrot dill and bean and barley, so we'll probably go with them. The other two we're debating.

We're doing vegetarian soups and staying away from any meat based soups for now - using meat makes a fairly simply thing into a not-so-simple thing. What soups are people just desperate for? (OK, maybe not desperate - but what soups might be nice?)

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GMP manufacturing nerd reporting in:

work out exact weights, times and temps during cooking.

BTW - not just ideal weights, times and temps, but the acceptable ranges for each.

Does it matter if the carrots are a little bitter? Because if you are currently adjusting recipes 'to taste', it would require a standard batch to taste against.

Sounds like a challenging, informative and BIG project. Good luck, have fun, get rich! :wink:

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Do you have a reliable source for beans? I find that it's very easy to get stuck with a batch of beans that are old old old and won't cook up properly. This would be a serious problem for larger scale production.

I like onion soup, and most prefab onion soup is oversalted, under-oniony, and just not very tasty. There's still quality control issues (moldy onions! soggy onions! onions that like to go bad in just one layer!), but it could be an easy one to scale up.

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