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BUSINESS IDEAS 8 Reindeer vindaloo may have a


somewhat limited market, but this was a typical combination of mixing foods from different cultures. One successful enterprise that started


from a domestic kitchen produced pickles and chutneys based on Sri Lankan recipes. It was certainly different to anything else at the time, but as it was highly successful it attracted plenty of imitators. There are numerous gaps in the market


for ‘niche’ products that could be home produced, such as:


● Products designed for customers with allergies, or conditions such as diabetes. One young lady, who needed gluten-free products, started her own business from her parents’ kitchen because she couldn’t buy anything suitable locally.


● Products that are sold in relatively small sizes and quantities. One young couple with a love of Asian food


SALSA


The ‘Safe and Local Supplier Approved’ food safety standard is a registration and certification scheme designed for small food producers. It has been set up by a consortium of organisations including:


● The National Farmers Union. ● The Food and Drink Federation.


● The British Hospitality Association.


● The British Retail Consortium.


The advantages of joining SALSA are: ● It is used as a benchmark by retailers and membership is sometimes a requirement to gain access to sell at food events or farmers’ markets.


● Large retailers such as Booths, Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Waitrose accept the SALSA standard.


● A team of SALSA mentors can provide support to individual members.


● SALSA runs training courses on Hazard Awareness and Critical Control Points (HACCP), which is a major food safety requirement.


For further details, go to www.salsafood.co.uk


Jerry Bennett


is an independent business adviser and coach, based in Cumbria. Employment Alternatives ☎01539 733229


www.employmentalternatives.co.uk


produce and sell specialist curry herbs, spices, marinades and rubs.


● Bespoke and ‘one-off’ products. Special occasion cakes produced and decorated to commission can be a lucrative option, particularly if you target the bridal market.


Market research


If Keith Floyd were still alive today, how could he discover how much appeal his reindeer vindaloo might have for people other than Lapps? Answer – take a stand at any farmers’


market, country show or food fair and try it out on customers. One couple who started their jams,


chutneys, pickles and drinks business in an old farm kitchen always have masses of broken cream crackers on which new customers can taste their products free of charge. It must work, because they have recently moved to new and larger premises, and are winning awards as well. Selling to consumers on a direct basis


is easier, and the number of events where food is served is massive. But you need to pick the right events. Two guys who run a vegetarian Indian food business usually take stands at music festivals UK- wide. They believe their product is more appealing to festival goers than to visitors to a local agricultural show. Another issue to consider is whether


you sell directly to consumers, or through retailers, either general (Tesco, Morrisons etc) or specialist (Westmorland Services, Plumgarths Farm Shop etc). If you are associated with a trade organisation such as Food North-West, they can help you by making approaches to the retailers. Food has huge interest, and customers


are always willing to experiment with something new. If you can combine new culinary experiences with health require- ments such as suitability for allergies or low fat content, the opportunities really open up. Low-fat reindeer vindaloo anyone?❖


WHAT A RETAILER WANTS FROM A SUPPLIER


Plumgarths, near Kendal in Cumbria, is not just a farm shop, it also acts as an intermediary between local suppliers and ASDA (among others), and currently places more than 80 products from 30 local producers in a range of stores across Cumbria. It also supplies many local hotels and restaurants. John Geldard, director of Plumgarths Farm Shop, has been involved with it from the outset and is also a local farmer. According to John, anyone looking to


sell food products into retailers must be able to answer the following questions:


● Has the product been accredited? Accreditation has become far more important over recent years, both with the local council and with SALSA.


● Can the retailer sell the product at a cost that provides both the retailer and the producer with sufficient profit? This issue is becom- ing more acute, as the recession continues to force consumers to be more and more cost conscious.


● Can producers still meet their margins if raw material costs increase? There are likely to be signifi- cant increases in the prices of food this year, for a variety of reasons (e.g., the drought that has damaged the US maize and wheat crops). Will you still be able to make money if the cost of your raw materials increases?


● Is the product the sort that will continue to sell well in a reces- sion? Retailers are always wary of taking on products that might not sell easily.


● Can the producer meet the specific conditions of the retailer? There are certain windows in the year when retailers want their products to be supplied. It can take up to 12 months between making an initial approach to a retailer and getting the product on the shelf. A large retailer may require the producer to meet certain quantity levels.


For further details, see www.plumgarths.co.uk.


Better Business No 189


www.better-business.co.uk


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