Our weekly Zoom sessions explore different areas of food and drink product development – and they’re free! If you’re at the early stages and want to know how to start a food business from home, these five videos are a great introduction.
Starting a food business presents relatively low barriers to entry. Whether you’re a chef looking to convert your menu into products, an enthusiastic home baker, or just someone with a good idea, you can start at home. Of course, it’s not easy. The barriers to entry are low for everyone. You’ll need to work hard to get your product right, make sure it’s safe and compliant, and find ways to reach customers. Enlisting the right support can make all the difference and save you headaches later on.
With that in mind, we run a weekly Zoom session exploring different areas of food and drink product development. They’re also recorded for those who can’t catch them live. To help you understand more about how to start at food business from home, we’ve pulled together five sessions to help you get focused.
1. Taking the plunge
Our first webinar focuses on the foundations of starting a food business. We cover the approach you’ll need to get started on new product development and recommends getting a solid, structured plan together. Froghop founder, Mel takes us through a strategic view beginning with the vision of what the business will look like, planning how to make it happen and key milestones. It pays to take the time to get this right and to understand what you’re undertaking.
Even an informal plan will be a massive help and it should contain:
- Start with a brief – getting clear on the idea and the product USP
- What is the market? Who are your customers and how big is the demand?
- Determine the scope – are you aiming for cottage business or supermarket shelves?
- Outline your goals: short-term, intermediate and long-term
- Get to grips with your project costs: ingredients, packaging, production cost, distribution, branding, marketing, sales and ongoing support
- Balance cost with effort – know when it’s worth investing in help along the way
- If relevant, bear in mind opportunities for scaling up
2. Creating a prototype
A fundamental aspect of product development is prototyping. In this webinar, Mel leads us through the principles of prototyping while whipping up simple energy balls in our product kitchen.
By the time you get to the prototype stage you should know what your starting recipe looks like, have narrowed down your customer base, and be clear on the product’s claims and rough nutritional profile. At this point, it’s sensible to have an idea of cost – where higher costs are necessary and/or where cost-savings can be made.
Key things to consider:
- When the product testing is underway, it’s important that you source the ingredients in appropriate qualities but don’t skimp. If testing on a small scale, you still need a sufficient amount to get a decent sample
- Try to be as accurate as you can with measurements including using the right scales for the product (+/- multiple decimal point scales for smaller ingredients)
- Your packaging – what is the right packaging for your sample and the finished product?
3. Navigating the process
It bears repeating that if you’re thinking of starting a food business, you need a plan. In this video, Mel takes you the product development process from idea to launch. While there’s no single way to create and launch a new product, our tried and tested process has been key to supporting our clients navigate this sometimes rocky road to success.
A gentle recommendation: be realistic about meeting your wishlist of attributes. We’ve seen pages of desired claims but the more claims, the more of a challenge your product will be to make. By all means, brainstorm as many as you’d like but the next step should be to hone this down and make sure you can balance benefits, commercials, taste and so on. You’ll probably find it useful to define your ‘red lines’ alongside your wishlist too – the things that your product won’t compromise on.
Watch > Navigating the development process.
4. Nutrition and health claims
What you can (and can’t) say about your product in terms of labelling and marketing is a crucial element in product development. There is plenty of legislation around this and it pays to check out GOV.UK and EU Food Information for Consumers regulation which is still in place despite Brexit.
Mel takes us through health claims in terms of nutrients, psychological or behavioural functions, slimming, general claims, children’s development/health and claims of disease reduction. She also covers nutrition claims around energy, fat and those tricky marketing terms such as ‘natural’, ‘farmhouse’, ‘finest’ and more.
Watch > Nutrition and health claims.
5. Testing your product
As a brand owner, it’s your responsibility to meet quality and safety standards throughout the process of food production. The best way to establish this is to create a product specification and testing schedule so you can risk assess and prioritise the right testing categories.
Testing ensures your product is safe, upholds its claims and tastes as good as you want it to. It also helps to verify that your nutritional profile is correct after inevitable changes along the way.
Some of the things you need to test for include:
- Health claims
- Nutrition claims
- Provenance and traceability
- Content of QUID ingredients
- Reduced claims
- Contaminants with set max levels
- Foreign bodies
The testing categories will depend on the type of product you’re developing so not all of these will apply to your product, or not at every stage. In the video, Mel outlines what testing covers, number tolerances, legislation and provides a handy testing checklist to help you navigate this important step in development.
Watch > Testing for food and drink products.
Bonus Video: Lexi’s inspiration
To round things off, we have something a little different – our interview with Lexi’s Treats founder Alexei Khatiwada. Alexei gave us all a treat by sharing his experience and tips for launching a new product. He’s been really successful with his low calorie rice krispy treats. He’s now sell through is own website as well as a range of partners and is now ordering lorry-loads of bars at-a-time. Watch the video about starting a food business “with a small budget and no team” and learn how to give yourself the best chance of success when selling online.