Food Business Almanac: Tips from the Pros

By on January 11, 2016

NCDA&CS food business specialist Annette Dunlap offers resources that agribusiness owners and food entrepreneurs can use to grow and manage their business. Annette is available for free one-on-one consultations and can assist business owners with financial and market planning through the agribusiness development section. She can be reached at annette.dunlap@ncagr.gov.

Last fall, Annette interviewed Jack Pyritz of Bobbees Bottling in Louisburg. Jack discussed the eight steps to getting your product bottled and also reviewed the process of developing the first batch of your recipe.

During these interviews, Jack shared many tips that can benefit beginning food entrepreneurs launching their first product and mid-sized companies looking to take their business to the next level. Here are some key takeaways from their sessions.

  1. It’s not like making it in your kitchen – Creating a shelf-stable product on a large scale is different from cooking in your home kitchen. But, various cooking processes such as adjusting the cooking temperatures, adding preservatives or controlling water activity may make it possible to create a similar product to your family recipe.
  2. Make a shelf-stable product – When a product is shelf-stable it can be safely stored at room temperature in a sealed container. This is key when you are talking about being able to store inventory so you can fulfill orders as needed. When evaluating your product, you should see if it can be made shelf stable, and how long it can keep in storage without losing its quality.
  3. Scaling a recipe is complicated – If your recipe makes one gallon of sauce and you want to make five gallons, you just multiply the quantity of each ingredient by five, right? Wrong. Some ingredients scale linearly, other ingredients like garlic, vinegar or hot sauce scale exponentially.
  4. Consider two lines of your product – In order to create a shelf-stable and cost-effective product, your recipe may have to change slightly from the original. If you are determined to have the recipe taste exactly like your original family recipe, it may be wise to create two versions of the product – one that is slightly different but more affordable, and a gourmet version that’s a higher price point but closer to the original.
  5. No one can sell your product like you – You are the only person who can sell your product. After you do your first run, it’s time to go out and tell your story. You know the benefits of your product, how it can be used and what separates it from your competitors.
  6. When selling, start local – Begin with every retailer within a 15-mile radius of your house. This includes grocery stores, big-box stores, specialty food stores, convenience stores, etc. If you can’t sell your product in your backyard to your friends and family, you’re probably not going to be successful anywhere else.
  7. Have realistic expectations –Don’t expect to sell a million bottles in the first year. For the most part, condiments are still an impulse buy. However, if you get your product out there, have tastings and share your story, you can find success. It just may not be overnight success.

To learn more about bottling your product, check out the links to our past blog posts below. Also, visit the department’s Agribusiness Development page for a complete listing of co-packers in North Carolina.

Food Business Almanac: Developing Your First Batch
Food Business Almanac: Bobbees Bottling

You can also increase your marketing knowledge by attending the 5th Annual NCDA&CS Food Business Conference in Greensboro on Tuesday April 5. The conference includes presentations by industry leaders ranging from non-traditional marketing to product photography and e-commerce. The cost is $100, but you can save 10 percent by registering before Feb. 15. A full agenda and registration form is available online at http://ncagr.gov/markets/agribiz/.

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