Scaling-up your food and drink business
Knowing how to scale-up your food and drink business can be daunting. Our MDS apprentices Harry Creak and Arunima Amar join the entrepreneurs on the Growing Kent & Medway Food Accelerator to ask industry experts for their advice.
In September, Growing Kent & Medway’s food and drink accelerator programme brought together 17 innovative small businesses for its first cohort. Over the past few months, these business entrepreneurs have had support from research and business experts in Kent to help develop their business ideas, overcome technical challenges and grow their business.
A recent workshop held at the Kent Science Park, gave our entrepreneurs the opportunity to ask questions to our industry panel on the tricky and daunting task of scaling-up their business. Our industry panel included:
- Laura Bounds MBE: Owner of four award-winning Kent food businesses, Kent Crisps, Kent Condiments, Curd & Cure and A Little Bit of Food.
- Nimisha Raja: Owner of fruit crisps company, Nim’s Fruit Crisps
- Ian Pateman: Innovation and Growth Specialist from Innovate UK Edge SE
- Richard Hallet MBE: A food industry consultant.
The discussion provided lots of valuable information for businesses, and here we share with you the most insightful answers to questions that any growing business can relate to.
Should you contract out your manufacturing or upscale yourself?
Taking on manufacturing yourself gives you total control in how your product is created. You can benefit from more easily monitoring the manufacturing process to make sure your product is how you always intended it to be. Doing it yourself however can be a huge undertaking and will often take longer and more money that you think.
Laura tells us that you need to think about where your strengths and interests lie - is that in running production operations or in sales?”
Richard makes the point that scaling up will be incremental and because some contract manufacturers won’t produce small volumes, you may have to increase how much of your product you can handle and sell before employing a manufacturer.
If your product is novel, you may not even be able to find a manufacturer able to make it. This was the case for Nimisha, who ended up sourcing the equipment and manufacturing her product herself.
How can you increase your sales and promote your product?
Laura says that social media is a great shop window, however it doesn’t often generate new sales. You need to look for other platforms and methods to seek customers.
One method, says Nimisha, is via e-commerce websites such as Amazon. Yes, they take a significant cut, but it can be a useful way to reach a large customer base. She also added that trade shows may not often be worthwhile unless your product is truly unique.
How can you keep a committed, motivated workforce?
Ian tells us to ‘lead by example!’ If you want to encourage your workforce, a working atmosphere will often reflect your own attitude, so be positive.
Fair wages are also important, says Nimisha. Pay above the minimum wage to show appreciation for your employees’ work who are likely to return the favour.
Laura shared that her workforce are committed because they love the product and the work. You can achieve this by improving your work atmosphere and employee morale by offering benefits such as flexibility. Recruit based on the values of your company, rather than on experience, to give employees a better sense of belonging.
We hope these insights may provide you with some food for thought. If workshops like these are something you would like to attend in the future, consider applying to our Food and Drink Accelerator Programme. We can provide you with the support to take your business to the next step. To find out more and sign up click here: