Perhaps all of your friends and family can’t stop talking about how utterly delicious and delectable your dark chocolate, caramel infused peppermint bark is.  Maybe you keep hearing how you should be selling it but don’t know the first thing about marketing or getting started.  Don’t worry because you are not alone.  If you were to ask anyone who started out with a great and creative food product chances are, they would attest to having had the same dilemma. 

Why is it Special?

The first question anyone who finds themselves in this boat should ask themselves is what really makes your product stand apart from the others that are out there that are in the same niche? Do you bring something different to the table?  Most chefs and cooks answer this question with, “well, of course, I love it and all my friends love it!”  While this may all be true, you need to be a little careful.  Sure, these people could rave for days about what your creations do for their taste buds but they are by no means an accurate representation of consumers on a broad scale.

Samples Anyone?

To get around this dilemma you need to expose others, ideally strangers, to your creation(s).  There are some ways this can be achieved and each come with their associated pros and cons.  If you live near a major university or college consider sending out a few inquiry emails or even a visit to their culinary or agriculture center.  These places will often have a host of resources and information on what is out on the market now and what is and is not doing well. 

Occasionally, culinary departments host events or shows for their students or people in the community to show off their skills and talents. Consider bringing a small amount of your product to one of these events and handing them out as free samples under the condition that the taster gives you an honest blurb or two about what they think of it.

Setting Your Product Apart

This brings us to our next point.  You need to decide what sort of market you want to break into.  Are you thinking something large like Whole Foods or maybe something smaller and easier to manage like a farmer’s market or street fair?  Whatever your goals are, having a clear idea in your head before you begin your venture can really help you down the road when your product takes off.

Most successful products that start this way have a story associated with it.  What story comes with your product?  Little nuances like this will really help you when it comes time to trying to pitch or sell your product to a store, vendor or restaurant. 

Strictly speaking from a numbers standpoint, specialty foods and products made from independent producers accounts for almost 50 billion dollars in sales for stores and about 13 billion dollars in sales for restaurants and other food venues.  There is definitely money to be made it just comes down to how much elbow grease and time you are willing to invest to make your product a hit.

Making a Name for Yourself

If you have already been exhibiting your goods and products at a local farmers market or through friends and parties you might want to consider pitching your creation to grocer or restaurant.  Many companies will have directions to do this available on their websites.  The process generally entails a descriptive information package containing some history of you, the product and its inception.  You will also need to arrange a way to get it the person on the receiving end as they will always want to see it up close and personal (and naturally, try it out themselves).

While some companies and corporation’s rules are tighter and stricter than others, Whole Food stores offer a unique approach to launching and marketing an independently made product.  Depending on the success of your product in your community, it’s history and story, Whole Foods can offer anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000 in loans to get your product up off the ground.  Products launched in this way will include a test market for roughly six to nine months to see how popular it has the potential of being.

Remember, in this market, and really any market, persistence pays.  If you truly believe in your product, do everything you can to get it out there for more people to try, because you never know who will come along with the right connections to be the key piece to your future success story.