The Artisan Purveyor’s world can be hair-curling

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(Editor’s Note: This is an ongoing daily column addressing the challenges Artisan Purveyors face when bringing a product to market and working on expanding that market. It can be hair-curling.)

alexHalloween is here. And with it comes visions of holiday shopping and a re-appearance of the Christmas gift list. Halloween is the gateway holiday to Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the stress that comes with gifting.

For many, thoughts of Grandma’s favorite jam, jelly, or pickle recipe come to mind as the perfect gift and eventually, they appear, nicely packaged with Gingham ribbon, a printed label and Uncle Marvin’s name on the hang tag, lined up on the dining room table. Viola, Christmas gifts are ready.

That vision is not a pleasant one for food manufacturers. The reason is simple: We know Uncle Marvin will love the product – handmade, with love, in his favorite niece or nephew’s kitchen. Who wouldn’t love that?  And, since he’s your favorite uncle would he really convey other feelings? Of course not. That’s what makes Marvin, Marvin.

However, we know better.

Food manufacturers will, by February, 2016,  be inundated with niece’s, nephew’s, grandson’s, godson’s and even, possibly, Uncle Marvin researching what it takes to bring an artisan purveyor’s hand-crafted products to market.

A great idea requires planning, capital and endurance.  The key is to have equal amounts of capital and endurance.

One of the reasons we bought Mad Wills one year ago was to assist small batch purveyors in bringing their products to market. We realized early on that most artisan purveyors were operating in an information bubble. Manufacturers would gladly produce the small batch artisan’s product, but few purveyors knew what to do with that product once it showed up in their garage – which by the way is illegal – you can’t store product in your garage if it is going to be wholesaled – more on this later.

The road to the grocer’s shelf is full of potholes and ruts. But, thanks to new world technology and out-of-the-box thinking, the grocer’s shelf is no longer the only outlet for products. But before we get to the grocer’s shelf part of this story, let’s lay the foundation for what is ahead for the artisan purveyor with a product to bring to market.

Ten Tips on Small Batch Manufacturing:

1). The most expensive real estate is not next to the ocean, it is next to the Ketchup on your grocer’s shelf.

2). The cost of manufacturing a product could be the smallest number in the equation.

3). Being able to make it on your stove doesn’t necessarily mean you can put it in a jar.

4). No matter how great your product tastes, someone has tasted a better one. Don’t take offense.

5) Thick skin is a must. Before anyone says “yes” to you, you will hear a lot of “no”.

6). Less is more. Keep your ingredients to a minimum.

7). Do not use a variety of already-made products to make yours. Source ingredients and combine them to come up with an original product. Heinz ketchup is not an ingredient in an authentic artisan purveyor product.

8). Pay attention to geographical tastes and trends.

9). Do not think of “going national.” Start out regionally. They know how to make granola in every state in the union.

10). Food is fun. Enjoy the process. Selling food, not so much. But, at the end of the day, you are an artisan and you will face the same challenges as other artisans, and there is a way to be successful. However, it doesn’t happen overnight.

John Foley is Publisher of foodiedaily.com

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