Antojos y Sabores is a female owned and operated business dedicated to the artisanal making of Mexican tamales. After starting their business, they joined Coho Commissary to join and learn from a community of chefs and entrepreneurs who share a passion for food and beverage. Within their first 3 years of business, they have expanded their line of tamales to be sold at local retailers across the Greater Vancouver Area, including their most recent expansion onto the shelves of IGA and Fresh Street Market.
For any entrepreneurs with dreams of seeing their product in the homes of strangers and shelves lined with your brand name, this article is for you. With the expertise of Antojos y Sabores owner Nadia, we'll be exploring the step-by-step process of scaling up your food business from a simple recipe to a thriving retail venture in your region.
1. Recipe Refinement and Product Development
Start by refining your recipes for taste and consistency. Conduct taste tests personally, gather feedback from friends and family, and make necessary adjustments. Once these fundamentals are covered, you can test your recipe’s scalability and market appeal. When you are able to produce your food in larger batches, you’ll also need to ensure that your product meets regulatory standards, including ingredient labeling requirements and nutritional information.
"This may be the most time consuming step, but it’s fundamental for the good development of a business. We got our family and friends to try our product, people who you trust can give you valuable feedback. Also giving an expert to review your final work will give you peace of mind."
2. Market Research and Validation
It’s essential for you to conduct thorough market research to identify your target audience. This will help you understand who they are, their preferences, interests, lifestyles, and in turn assess the demand for your product. With full insight, it will be easier to identify market gaps, find and analyze your competitors, and determine what makes your offering unique. Validate your product by organizing focus groups or participating in local food events and farmer's markets.
"Public events are a great place to promote your product. Not only are you able to introduce your product, you also get to personally connect with potential customers. Engaging in conversations, they usually tell us what they crave, which helps to inspire our recipe development and get our creative juices flowing!"
3. Business Planning and Regulations
Develop a comprehensive business plan that outlines your goals, target market, marketing strategies, and financial projections. Familiarize yourself with the regulations specific to the food industry in your region, including licensing requirements, food safety regulations, and labeling guidelines. Consult with relevant authorities to ensure compliance. When you work in one of our commissary kitchens, our team will walk you through an onboarding process to ensure all your licenses and permits are in place before you move in.
4. Production and Sourcing
Set up a production plan that considers your production capacity, sourcing of ingredients, and quality control measures. Working in a commissary gives you access to larger, commercial equipment for you to fully scale up. While you build relationships with local suppliers and explore partnerships with distributors or wholesalers, don’t forget about getting to know your neighbours in the kitchen as well.
"For us, Coho was the best way to grow our business. We are able to operate in a functional space, among a friendly environment. The kitchen management team is knowledgeable of the unique challenges faced by smaller businesses, so they really put a big effort in providing us with resources to help us succeed.
The Coho Commissary community is eager to collaborate with other members and their brands, so we can organize pop up events, create limited-edition products and many more exciting partnerships. We are very happy to be part of the Coho community."
5. Packaging and Branding
Develop a strong brand story that communicates the values and uniqueness of your product. Create a compelling brand image through your logo, website, and social media presence. Once you have your brand identity, you can be confident to invest in visually appealing packaging that reflects your brand and captures the attention of consumers. Eco-friendly and sustainable packaging options are also an option if they align with your values.
"I think that your packaging should be simple yet appealing to the eye. Add your personal touch, because why not? That's what we focused on for our frozen tamales. They have vibrant colours with a little see through of our handmade tamales. Another thing to consider for the packaging is to make it functional to you. You’ll have loads of products to pack, so you want it to be simple and fast to do."
6. Distribution and Sales Channels
Identify suitable distribution channels for your product, such as local grocery stores, specialty food shops, online marketplaces, or direct-to-consumer sales. Establish partnerships with distributors or work with sales agents to expand your reach. Build relationships with retailers and participate in relevant trade shows or food exhibitions to get noticed by the right people.
"We participated in the From the Ground Up 2023 Trade Show, which was a fun event to participate at and we definitely learned a lot from this experience. I find that expos, markets, or conferences are a great way to connect with other vendors and buyers because these events feel very casual, so it makes it easier to approach people."
Scaling up your food business from a family recipe to being sold on retail shelves across your region requires careful planning, market research, and compliance with regulations. By refining your recipes, doing your research, and establishing the right relationships, you can successfully bring your culinary creations to the greater public. Remember to adapt these steps to your specific product and market conditions. Good luck on your journey of culinary entrepreneurship!
Note: Remember to consult with local authorities and professionals to ensure compliance with regulations and requirements specific to your location and industry.