As the cottage food movement grows, so does the number of options your customers have. Luckily, the cottage food world is full of passionate cooks who want to lift each other up, making the competition more friendly than it is fierce. Every culinary artisan caters to a different audience — some may specialize in creative birthday cakes for young children, while others focus on meal prep kits for vegans.
You’re in a friendly community of food lovers and entrepreneurs, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go the extra mile to attract potential customers’ attention.
We’re sharing a few tips to help you stand out as a cottage food business, no matter if you sell online, at markets, or through wholesale partners.
Tips for Online Food Businesses
Technology is making it easier than ever to launch a business without ever signing a lease. Today, you can run a food business online, all from your home kitchen — also known as a cottage food business.
With an online presence, you have a lot of flexibility, but you’ll never have the benefit of foot traffic like a brick-and-mortar business does. If you want to build out a complex website with information on your background story, your products, and your expertise, you can do that — or you can keep things simple with a single-page ordering system. No matter which option you choose, you have an opportunity to showcase your products and business in the best light with unique branding and quality photography.
If you ace your online food business’ visual presentation, you’re almost certainly guaranteed to see more sales. Eye-catching photos, a beautiful social media feed, and tasty products will make your customers take notice.
Pretty isn’t everything, though. Your customers expect a seamless buying experience too. Checkout is one of the rare times that you actually might not want to stand out. A simple ecommerce checkout process is a great way to encourage customers to buy from you. To increase your purchase volume, make sure that your food business’ checkout experience is built into your website — don’t make customers leave your website to Venmo a payment or send you money via Zelle.
How to Stand Out at the Farmers Market
Think about the last time you went to a farmers market. There’s a lot to look at, right?
You know the classic market tips — make your products look plentiful, use a tablecloth, keep things clean and organized.
When it comes to catching the attention of potential buyers, you might need to step outside of your comfort zone. Whether your farmers market has 15 vendors or 150 vendors, you’re competing against every other vendor for a sliver of customer attention.
Creating an eye-catching booth is one great way to attract buyers. With colorful and consistent branding, creative product placement, unique packaging, and free samples, you’ll get more people to stop by. To make your booth more appealing, try using these techniques:
- Make plenty of product and put it all on display (in an organized way)
- Use a tablecloth that matches your brand colors
- Bring a sign with your logo, website, and social media handles
- Offer samples
- List products and pricing clearly on a chalkboard or printed list
- Make checkout simple
- Keep your booth organized and clean
- Engage everyone that walks past your booth (even just by saying “hello”)
Of course, one of the best ways to stand out at the market is to sell a product that no one else offers. Does your market already have three cupcake vendors? If you’re a baker, consider selling something unique, like laminated pastries or sourdough bread, even if you know how to make cupcakes too. Ask your point of contact at the market for an idea of what other vendors sell ahead of time — they usually have an idea of what vendors bring to the market each week.
Tips for Wholesale and Retail
If you think there’s a lot to look at at a farmers market, a grocery store boasts even more distractions. Even if you’re stocked at a small specialty foods store and not at a mega-sized grocery store, you have a limited amount of time to catch a consumer’s eye. Packaging becomes exponentially more important when your product has to stand alone without you there to deliver it or promote it.
Once you’ve made sure that your product is allowed to be sold on retail shelves, it’s time to focus on creating unique packaging. Work with a graphic designer to create an eye-catching label, or use a tool like Canva to make one yourself. You can purchase packaging in bulk from retailers like Webstaurant or Uline and add stamps or stickers to customize it.
Your pricing can also help you stand out — and you don’t need to be the cheapest product in the store to stand out! A premium price is one way to stand out that also helps you make sure that you’re getting paid for your time and ingredient costs. Remember, in a wholesale environment, you’ll likely need to price your products at a lower cost than you would if you were selling them directly to consumers, because grocery stores need to profit as well.
No matter what you sell, when it’s time to sell your products to customers, you should know what makes them unique. Before you start writing copy for your website, set up your first farmers market stall, or start selling to retailers, make sure you’ve nailed your pitch. Every food entrepreneur should have a short elevator pitch and value propositions that can be shared at a moment’s notice — they should be second nature to you!
You’re creating a product that no one else sells, simply because it’s made by you. Build a strong business by knowing exactly what makes your food business special, whether it’s premium ingredients, a unique backstory, or something else entirely. Good luck in your business ventures!