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Great Food Entrepreneurs Are Always Learning

Great Food Entrepreneurs Are Always Learning

We have found that the best entrepreneurs are constantly seeking new learning experiences. This includes getting constant feedback from their customers, to reaching out to potential mentors for advice, to attending industry events and tradeshows to network with and learn from their peers and industry veterans. Sometimes, learning means “un-learning” something these entrepreneurs thought was essential to their business when they launched, whether their packaging or messaging or even their original business model. In short, good food entrepreneurs learn to adapt and know that some of their original assumptions will be proven wrong as they validate their products in the market.

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This Food Hub Leverages A Diverse Food Shed For A Resilient Future

This Food Hub Leverages A Diverse Food Shed For A Resilient Future

Dorchester’s Farm Food Hub, a for-profit cooperative located in Prince County, Maryland serving the Chesapeake Bay food shed. The Hub aggregates and tries to ensure consistent supply of seafood and farm products (fruit, produce, livestock) and then redistributes to areas that are historically under-served via direct delivery of fresh and healthy food options. The Hub gives its customers lots of choice and flexibility, allowing people to chose what they purchase based on availability and their preferences. They started with 20 members in 2014 and are now up to nearly 500 consistent members in 2018. The average order size for their products is about $57 and 2 products. The Hub keeps consistent data on their customers’ preferences and has developed new products, like chicken plates and coleslaw, to both eliminate unnecessary waste in their operations and improve their bottom line through producing of value-added products and adding customers to existing delivery routes. The Hub has sought to further leverage their strategic advantages of seafood and aggregation services as their biggest points of differentiation in the marketplace.

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Where Does My Food Brand Need To “Be”?

Where Does My Food Brand Need To “Be”?

There are wide variety of tools and marketplaces to reach customers for today’s food brands. And, sometimes the ideal distribution path looks different than the entrepreneur intended when they started the business. The brands that survive today’s marketplace will be making decisions about distribution and channels of delivery with their customers’ expectations and preferences center stage.

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Food Entrepreneurship and Resilience: A Funky Fresh Take With Trueman McGee

Food Entrepreneurship and Resilience: A Funky Fresh Take With Trueman McGee

Funky Fresh Spring Rolls is a company that produces uniquely flavored, hand rolled spring rolls that are baked or grilled (not fried) with fresh and local ingredients. Originally, the founder had wanted Funky Fresh to go directly to grocery store retail in part to avoid the all-consuming nature of owning a restaurant. But, grocery stores have competitive margins and shelf space where it is difficult to get trial, potentially limiting his cash flow at the early stage of the business. The Funky Fresh team began selling at Farmers Markets, which in addition to providing early cash flow have functioned as market research, allowing them to talk directly to consumers about the price point and what flavors are most popular. Funky Fresh has also been selling at sporting events, festivals and through catering, but recently opened up a temporary retail location. The company has plans to distribute frozen versions of their product to grocery stores in 2019/2020 after opening a few more retail locations and a “Funky Fresh Fun Factory” to mass-produce rolls.

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Building A Defensibly Unique Food Supply Chain

Building A Defensibly Unique Food Supply Chain

There are many ways to make your food company be defensibly unique. This can include building an innovative brand that speaks to consumers that weren’t being spoken to before and stands out in its category or categories. This could mean developing a proprietary technology or process that allows you to make truly unique products. This could mean sourcing unique ingredients from a known and understood supply chain. However, what if they supply chain didn’t already exist? Could you build a supply chain that is defensibly unique? Building markets and the supply chain relationships necessary to support them requires a long-term vision that aligns consumers, suppliers, funders and their brand. But, if it is properly built and capitalized, it can lead to a defensibly unique business model that allows that food company to be built to last.

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ReGrained, A Business Model For The Long Term And The Planet

ReGrained, A Business Model For The Long Term And The Planet

ReGrained is a national brand of bars and ready-to-eat snacks made from the high-protein and high-fiber flour of “spent” grains used in the beer brewing process. Their core bar product went through many iterations before being ready to scale, and since the bar category is crowded and competitive, it was a learning process to get trial and educate the consumer. ReGrained launched their product at scale in January 2018 and now are working with other businesses to help them produce/co-brand new products using their production facility and the expertise embedded in their proprietary process. They are building out a commercial scale facility that they call a “ReGrainery” in Berkeley, CA currently to process the flour for their bars and demonstrate the re-grained concept to the public. ReGrained was self-funded early on through a small start up investment and cash from product sales, though they have since raised funds via rewards-based crowdfunding, friends and family, angel investment, and equity-based crowdfunding, in addition to a new strategic partnership. The team at ReGrained is excited about their business model being defensibly unique in today’s marketplace and their business model’s long-term impact on the planet.

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Food Businesses Need To Pay For Space And Attention, Even on Amazon

Food Businesses Need To Pay For Space And Attention, Even on Amazon

“This product sells itself!” Have you ever heard that expression? It’s one of those clichés that is unfortunately not true. While there are things you can do to gain awareness, interest and trust in the marketplace, no product, food or otherwise, sells itself. People’s time and attention are limited, and often the biggest challenge with acquiring new customers for food businesses is getting those customers to try the product. Because the food space is competitive, online and off, emerging food companies have to spend lots of marketing and sales dollars to get people’s attention by paying to have their product in the right place with the right positioning.

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Grow Your Food Brand On Amazon, If You Constantly Optimize

Grow Your Food Brand On Amazon, If You Constantly Optimize

The Amazon platform provides a means for small and emerging brands to find an audience and generate sales if they dedicate time and resources to ensure discoverability on the platform by constantly optimizing product pages with the right keywords and features once the user is on the page, in addition to paying for keyword-based advertising. Many food and beverage brands have found that they need to sell variety packs or other bundles to get their products to the $10 – $20 price point that is optimal for both what consumers are looking to pay while balancing achieving profitability on each unit that is not possible with selling individual products for less than $10. While there are some perishable products available through Amazon Fresh or Amazon Prime Now, the brands that have the most traction today in selling through Amazon tend to have shelf-stable products.

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Shifting Farm Business Models

Shifting Farm Business Models

Agriculture is a tough business to be in. According to an analysis by the Farm Bureau, median on-farm household income has been negative for the past 20 years. This means that every year for the past 20 years, more than ½ of all farms in the United States were unprofitable! Many of these farms have kept their cash flow positive by increasing their debt load, and individual farms might be profitable one year and unprofitable the next. Finding new business models that allow farmers to be profitable while meeting changing consumer demand will require high-quality technical assistance and coordinated effort on the part of farmers, brand-builders, lenders, investors and consumers.

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How A Bank Can Strengthen Farming Communities Through Innovative Lending

How A Bank Can Strengthen Farming Communities Through Innovative Lending

Ephrata National Bank in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is a $1 billion community bank with 25% of their portfolio funding agricultural entrepreneurs. The bank’s staff have found that changing the price the farmers receive via new business models or premium offerings through things like organic production or value-added processing helps farmers deal with high land prices and avoid commodity agriculture’s low return on assets. Lending is a “high-contact sport” and relationships with lenders can help food businesses solve key business problems. Partnerships with government programs from the FSA, SBA and USDA that encourage food and farm lending are essential to make many of these lending relationships work. But, there is a lack of technical assistance nationally to help more lenders understand (and underwrite) cross-disciplinary business models (ex. a farming operation with a cheese plant that resembles food manufacturing). There is also a lack of training on how entrepreneurs and lenders can leverage all of the different sources of capital and programs available to entrepreneurs to make more deals happen.

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