Michael Adams Green Mountain Mustard and Gredio

Michael Adams, Owner
Green Mountain Mustard & Gredio

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Sell Your Food Product Online

5 Ways to Sell Your Food Product Online

Amazon Raspberry Jam searchDo you want to increase your online sales for your food business? How about sell to millions of customers instead of your small town?

That’s the power of the internet.

Online shopping is a big industry. Just look at the sale of groceries online – it’s a $6 billion market. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a sliver of that pie? Yep – you and me both.

There’s one problem: building your online business is tough. The food industry is still face-to-face. Sales are made in person. The internet simply helps you sell to brick and mortar stores.

However, over the last few years, many solutions have popped up to increase your sales to consumers from coast to coast.

Below, I’ve described a few avenues you can take to increase your online food sales. Some are more expensive than others, but none are out of reach.

Let’s take a look:

1. Your own online store

It's Arthur's Fault Caramel SauceThis one’s a given. At every farmer’s market and retail demo I’ve done, this question always gets asked: “Do you sell online?” And I hope your answer is yes. Selling online opens up your food product to a nation of hungry consumers. Here’s a couple of pros and cons for creating an online store”

Pros:

  • Another revenue channel – it’s great to sell direct to consumers, isn’t it?
  • Nationwide market – customers from all over can order you product
  • Meet customers – interact directly with customers to learn how they use your product.
  • Inexpensive: many online stores are free or just a couple bucks a month.

Cons:

  • Time – it takes a while to pack up the order and ship it out
  • Money – it’ll cost you a couple hundred bucks to get boxes and such
  • Maintenance – keeping track of inventory and making sure your store doesn’t crash

2. Monthly subscription boxes

Hatchery Subscription BoxSubscription boxes are all the rage. There’s monthly this and monthly that. You can’t keep it straight! Getting your product into a monthly tasting box is a great way to expose your product to thousands of customers. Here are a couple other things to consider:

Pros:

  • Great exposure – tons of people try (and hopefully buy) your product
  • Less marketing – the subscription company does all of it for you
  • New customers – chance to break out of your hometown

Cons:

  • Expensive – all those small samples you provide add up
  • Spotty ROI – you may not make your money back
  • Newness – new monthly subscriptions may not be as lucrative as larger companies.

3. Square market

Square MarketEven though it’s an online reseller, Square market is loaded with small stores. Plus, if you already use Square to make mobile payments at markets, fairs, and festivals, it’s a natural extension of your company.

Pros:

  • Easily discovered – with thousands of hits a month, customers are bound to find you on Square
  • Simple setup – if you already use Square, you’ll have a store in just minutes.
  • Inexpensive – same with the credit card fees, Square charges 2.75% of the sale. No monthly fees. Now, that’s awesome.

Cons:

  • Limited branding – you can’t quite make the store your own yet.
  • Limited layouts – again, not much choice with how your product shows up

4. Online resellers

Amazon Food & GroceryAmazon.com is huge. There’s no denying the power of selling on the world’s largest retail website. And there’s so many more online resellers, too. From Abe’s Market to Joyus, there’s plenty to go around.

Pros:

  • Selling to an established market – customers are already coming to the site!
  • Easy setup – just send product information over and they’ll likely do the rest for you.
  • Drop-shipping – you keep the inventory and ship product out when orders come in.

Cons:

  • Competition – look at the number of products already on the site.
  • Drop-shipping – you need people to get the orders together
  • Sales pressure – if your product doesn’t sell, you might be dropped from the site

5. Gift basket companies

Gift Basket CollectionAfter being approached by several gift basket companies locally, this doesn’t seem like a bad idea, but think twice about it. Here’s a look at some pros and cons for our final way to sell online:

Pros:

  • Less work – They put together the baskets – you just sell the product
  • It’s always busy season – Gift giving is year-round
  • Partnerships – Gift basket vendors like to work with the same people – you’re in it for the long-haul.

Cons:

  • Smaller sizes – gift basket companies like sample-size products
  • Margins – they may suffer on smaller-sized product
  • Inclusion – you may only be in 1 or 2 gift baskets

Selling online can be a fruitful endeavor for your food business. Whether you select one or all five of these ways to sell your food product online, you’ll be successful. After all, it’s another sales channel for your business.

How have you fared selling online? Am I missing any pros and cons or ways to sell? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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23 Comments on this post

  1. AUTHORChef Art

    on August 21, 2013 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    The major “con” is shipping costs. Unless you are shipping A Lot shipping can add substancial costs.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on August 29, 2013 at 11:34 pm - Reply

      Yep – it definitely can, Art. I think the trick is knowing when to use FedEx or UPS vs. USPS. We only use USPS for New England. Anything outside goes FedEx.

  2. AUTHORMo

    on August 21, 2013 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    Great tips here! Thanks for sharing! I agree with most of your points here, having been a one woman biz. Online has many pros but the shipping and gift baskets are tricky with perishable items, during the summer months.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on August 29, 2013 at 11:35 pm - Reply

      Hi Mo,

      Thanks for the comment. Yes – perishable is super hard. I used to ran an energy bar company with a two week shelf life. It was a nightmare.

  3. AUTHORMarion Mathieu

    on August 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm - Reply

    Hi Michael,

    I just founded your blog, and I have to say I founded quite interesting.
    I work for a trading website called itradein.com. We help small and medium suppliers from the food and drinks industry.
    Basically, we match products to buyer requests from all over the world, for FREE.

    Please, feel free to have a look at itradein.com and register your company to optimise your trade opportunities.

    Best Regards

    Marion Mathieu

  4. AUTHORMaguy Cameau

    on October 3, 2013 at 2:28 am - Reply

    I am a small start up gourmet hot sauce and spices. I just started doing demo. I just received an email from a distributor looking for new and unique products and might be interested in my products. He wants me to send him a list of products that are available and also include; size, pack, description, delivered distributor pricing, and suggested retail. I do not have a distributor, I am new to this. Can you help

    • AUTHORmichael

      on October 3, 2013 at 10:01 am - Reply

      Hi Maguy,

      Sure, I can help – I’ll send an email to you. — Michael

  5. AUTHORBill Sutherland

    on December 17, 2014 at 3:40 am - Reply

    Hi Michael, I recently started my own company called Nutsack Food. I sell roasted nuts in a paper bag with the word ‘NUT SACK’ stamped on them. Everyone seems to love the name, concept, and most importantly the nuts. I’m selling online at http://buynutsacks.com and at a couple local retailers, but I would love to get some advice on furthering my reach.

    All the Best,
    Bill Sutherland
    Nutsack Foods

    • AUTHORmichael

      on December 18, 2014 at 5:01 pm - Reply

      Hey Bill,

      Thanks for your comment! You have a hilarious company name. I think it’d be an interesting if you took a PR angle and tried to get exposure in men’s magazines. Sometimes, all you have to do is send samples to the food editor. Other than that, I’d start blogging and connecting with your local customer base. It takes a lot of time and money to get your product out there quickly. You’re going to have to start small.

      Hope that helps!

      Michael

  6. AUTHORAnthony Passo

    on February 6, 2015 at 1:55 am - Reply

    Hey Mike I found your article very informing, I do have some questions as I am starting a unique Pasta Sause company. If you could email me that you be great ! Thank you

    • AUTHORmichael

      on February 6, 2015 at 12:13 pm - Reply

      You got it Anthony – it’s on it’s way!

  7. AUTHORFoodris

    on April 26, 2015 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Hey Mike! Let us introduce our company.
    We are Foodris.com a new marketplace for food and drink products. Foodris is an online marketplace for unique, high-quality food and drink products, connecting buyers with independent sellers from around the globe. Our mission is to build a platform to give artisans and small businesses a voice in a world dominated by big corporate players. Small artisans can sell their products directly to customers!

    If you want to learn more visit us:
    http://www.foodris.com
    http://www.foodris.com/create-a-store

  8. AUTHORAndrew Uribe

    on June 6, 2015 at 11:25 am - Reply

    Hello,
    Question is: why don’t I get any hits on my site?

    • AUTHORmichael

      on June 10, 2015 at 5:08 pm - Reply

      Hey Andrew,

      The old adage “if you build it they will come” is not true anymore. You have to do things to drive traffic to your website: blog, promote it offline, go to festivals and other events to drive customers, etc. Be active about promoting your site to bloggers, do some PR. It’s a long slog, but you’ll get there!

  9. AUTHORAgustin

    on June 28, 2015 at 1:44 am - Reply

    Hello,

    I am starting an online food business for celiac people. We still haven’t sorted out very well how will it work. Do you have any advice on how do make it grow?

    please hit me up with an email, thanks

    • AUTHORmichael

      on June 30, 2015 at 12:41 am - Reply

      Hi Agustin,

      There are numerous ways to grow your business online. We’ve been pretty successful with generating online demand by going to fairs and festivals. Best of luck with your own business.

      Michael

  10. AUTHORCurrywurst Danmark

    on July 28, 2015 at 5:43 am - Reply

    Thank you very much for this inspirering article. Being a new and small business in the food industry is brutal.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 28, 2015 at 10:21 am - Reply

      You’re welcome! Good luck in your food business adventures! — Michael

  11. AUTHORHenry Wythe

    on October 27, 2015 at 4:45 am - Reply

    Lots of good, practical advice here. Start-ups can get a quick view of the main channels and begin making good decisions. It takes a lot of work!
    For a small food company, hosted shopping carts like Shopify, 3dCart and BigCommerce are a good value for a low price. The setup doesn’t require any programming (but it takes a lot of attention to detail.) Once they are online, they can start attracting business with email campaigns and search engine marketing.
    Thanks for the good work!

    • AUTHORmichael

      on October 27, 2015 at 10:39 am - Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Henry. The platforms you mentioned are all great for food startups to test the waters. Of course, if you get bigger, you may want to explore bigger solutions. And yes, email and seo are great ways to build your customer base! Appreciate you reading and commenting. — Michael

  12. AUTHORDustin

    on November 24, 2015 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    Good read. Was curious to know. I am trying to sell a dried vegetable online. Do you have any knowledge on what I have to do with FDA, State of Florida, selling only within the USA. I made an account but I see lots of products online that pop up left and right. Do I need to take any prior actions?

    • AUTHORmichael

      on November 24, 2015 at 11:10 pm - Reply

      Hey Dustin,

      You have to register your production facility with the FDA and if you process anything, you should be in touch with the Florida Department of Health to see about any licenses you need. You will have a lot of competition but that’s why you need to figure out how to differentiate your product from others available.

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