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Early stage food production - keep testing or start batching?

I have a dessert product that's getting great feedback early on. I'm only a few weeks into testing and people are asking me to stop testing so they can begin purchasing. I think it could be a great product but it's also a spin off of a more traditional, cultural dessert (think Tiramisu with an American spin) so maybe not for everyone. I'm wondering if I should be spending my time slowly finding customers one at a time and making batches on my own on a per order basis or do I find a larger producer and make a large order and hope to find customers later?

19 Replies

Rodger Cravens
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Rodger Cravens Advisor
Veteran | MBA | Six Sigma Black Belt | Distribution / Logistics Consultant & Recruiter
I think you should start looking for a partner; as it is rarely ever too early to find the right partner so that you know how long it will take to get ramped up. It would really be a stumbling block if you capped out your internal manufacturing capabilities just to find out you were 6 months away from the ability to start with a supplier - after you found one (assuming you had time to find the right partner while also making everything yourself). Parallel paths I think is the right answer. Keep growing the business and work on finding the RIGHT partner for when you get to that scale.
Larry Tichauer, PE
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Larry Tichauer, PE Entrepreneur
Focused results driven creative thinker with a very diverse background able to propose novel solutions to new problems
I believe that you should try and acquire customers and prepare for a production partner as soon as possible. You will need a sales record and/or taste test data to present to investors to validate your business case. You did say that this is not for everyone which is why knowing who your target customer base is is so important.

I am assuming you will need external funding to go to production. Also if you want to market the product you will probably need Health department approval. That is why an established production house will be able to deliver a consistent product on time. Their record is what you are basing your success on. Investors will want to see a coherent business plan and a record of sales with projections. Ever watch Shark Tank?
Brian Powers
2
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Brian Powers Entrepreneur
Co-Founder of Blue Ocean Logic Group, (COIN, Chatham Tech, Hy Lo Market Pros & Blue Ocean Logic)
Testing is always good...and it never stops...even after you are in production. Until you fully understand who your "real' market is, their palates "today" and your "lowest" costs for production while satisfying that real market you will be A/B testing. While testing, you can always go into limited production and distribution. This approach supports the equivalent of your test market. Offer customers incentives for their feedback and use the data collected to tune your product. Manufacturers often utilize public focus groups in this manner to ensure demand for new formulations. Remember to consider your costs for this type of testing...the data you receive might not be valuable enough to justify the investment.
Andrew F. Martz
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Andrew F. Martz Entrepreneur
Andrew F. Martz: Ideation, Strategic, Maximizer, Futuristic, Self-Assurance
Take and fill the orders. Build from there. Get feedback from customers. Make improvements. Perfect your product ,package, pricking, production methods and delivery. Understand your customers. Who are they. What is important to them. Why do they buy your product ? How often?
Vikas Sharma
1
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Vikas Sharma Entrepreneur
Director, Practice Development at dentalcorp
Host an event. Invite 50 people who care about good. Gather written feedback. If it's largely positive, shop it around to local gourmet shops and gather a following.
Kenneth Friedman
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Kenneth Friedman Entrepreneur
Sales & Business Development Executive: CSO/EVP/SVP ★ “Corporate Invigorator” ★ Expertise Selling into 20+ Industries
It's a double edged sword. Too many start ups go full throttle into the market, only to discover they can't deliver a quality and timely product due to production and ingredients hiccups. You have 1 chance to make an impression with accounts and in turn it's the company reputation at stake. Retrofit the home base company 1st priority as you implement talking points to prospective accounts/partners. Be truthful with targeted accounts and position them as strategic partners with arealistic time line to execution. Then rollout as appropriate. Never over promise!
Shelley Delayne
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Shelley Delayne Advisor
Founder of south Austin's entrepreneurial epicenter
Clarifying questions:
Is it a perishable fresh product, frozen product, or shelf-stable?
Are you currently making test batches in a home kitchen or a commercial kitchen?
Would you see grocery stores being the natural outlet for it, or in restaurants/catering, or direct-to-consumers?
Do you have any experience in food labeling, FDA compliance, testing, etc.?

(And I think a spin on tiramisu sounds delicious.)

Chuck Bartok
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Chuck Bartok Entrepreneur
Marketing and Sales Manager at MD Building Systems of Florida, Inc
Successful long term Businesses grow in concentric circles.
How many can you easily make and sell locally?
Then increase market circles.
The advice above form Andrew Martz is excellent
Gary Kleinman
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Gary Kleinman Entrepreneur
Strategic experiential marketing executive creating measurable initiatives connecting brands and consumers.
Making desserts at home and friends liking them is a far cry from being a business. You can certainly have a hobby selling to friends but there are lots of health and safety laws that apply to the commercial sale of food products. I would absolutely suggest you find a 'co-packer', a facility that can work with you and making small batches as you attempt to scale your business. This will obviously change the financial dynamics of the business as well. Gary Kleinman [removed to protect privacy] www.yardstickpartners.com
Josh McCormack
0
0
Josh McCormack Advisor
Owner, InteractiveQA - Marketing, Web Dev, Testing, Data & Market Analysis
Look up the cottage food laws in your area. Many allow for you to produce and sell from your home. Use that capital and knowledge and testing to justify bigger expenditures (loans, partnerships, etc).
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