[Big Cheese Expertise Guest Post] Hi, my name is Chris Unwin, founder and CEO of conveyor and automation system manufacturer L.A.C. Conveyor Systems. If your food or drink business is ready to grow beyond your kitchen, here are my top tips for scaling up and outsourcing production.

The demand for food and drink is rising…

The global population is growing at a substantial rate which naturally leads to a rise in demand for food and drink, and brings with it a knock-on effect for other supporting industries including logistics, storage and companies like ours that supply to food and beverage manufacturers.

Greater opportunities also lead to more new businesses entering the marketplace, providing competition alongside your own offering. This is why it’s so important to establish a USP that is clearly communicated throughout all areas of your online marketing, in person at events and during networking opportunities; getting your company ‘out there’ is a great way to raise brand awareness and increase sales among both new and existing customers.

While the idea of ramping up production sounds exciting and shows that your business is doing well, the thought of actually putting this into practice may be rather daunting, especially for first-time entrepreneurs who currently work out of their kitchen.

This post explains the scaling up and outsourcing options available to fast-growing businesses, while also showing you how to go about finding the right manufacturer for your food and drink product(s), should you choose this route.

1. How are you looking at scaling up?

Work longer hours yourself – This might be your first thought and while you’ll have heard that sacrifices need to be made in order to be a successful entrepreneur, the last thing you want to do is suffer from a burnout, especially if you’re already working full-time hours.

Hire a helping hand – or two! – This is a more sensible consideration, (while also more expensive), and is a great way for scaling up production, but be aware that a spacing issue may arise if you’re currently working from home. A solution to this could be to allow your employees to work from their home, but it is essential that they adhere to all the necessary health and safety regulations and requirements.

Choose a central location – You could always rent a commercial kitchen unit in a shared workspace as a more affordable option. Not only will this help separate the blur between your home/work life, but it will aid better communication with your staff, especially if everyone is currently working from different places. It’s also the next step towards renting or buying premises of your own.

Working with a manufacturer – If you’re looking at significantly scaling up production then you may wish to consider this option. This may sound worrisome because after months or years of perfecting your recipe you’ll have to share it with an external source, and you may be concerned that increasing production will alter its consistency or the way it tastes, which your customers may not like.

It’s important not to rush this task – there’s a lot that needs to go into finding the right manufacturer for you. A good two-way working relationship, built on communication and trust, will be the key to success.

Scaling up machinery from L.A.C.Conveyors and Automations

2. Starting your search

A quick Google search will reveal thousands of local, national and international manufacturers.

There are pros and cons to working with both domestic and offshore companies.

Domestic manufacturing:

  • You’ll be working with people who speak your native language, in the same time zone
  • The close proximity helps as you’ll be able to take a tour of their facilities and schedule face-to-face meetings as and when required
  • Pros also include higher labour standards and faster shipping time

Offshore businesses:

  • There’s a greater pool to choose from
  • Can often be a lot cheaper (though you’ll need to factor in things like currency fluctuations, bank charges, freight costs and shipping insurance)
  • Higher volumes and the ability to scale manufacturing capacity quickly, in order to respond to customer demand, are also more likely

However, you’ll need to consider how much of a close relationship you’ll want with your manufacturer – distance, time zones and language barriers can all affect how this will work.

3. Creating a shortlist

Once you’ve decided on domestic vs offshore manufacturing, you’ll want to create a shortlist based on your requirements.

Seek word-of-mouth recommendations and spend time looking at manufacturer directories, online reviews, ratings and testimonials.

This is a huge step that needs plenty of careful research and planning as scaling up your business comes with high costs, and you want to avoid mistakes along the way.

Scaling up machinery from L.A.C.Conveyors and Automations

4. Vetting prospects

Have a clear checklist in mind when you contact your list of prospects.

This will help you compare each company and ultimately decide on which one ‘ticks the most boxes’. You may want to ask questions like:

  • What is your sample pricing? (some will offer samples for free, or at a discounted rate)
  • What is your production pricing?
  • Is there a minimum order quantity (MOQ)?
  • What is your turnaround time?
  • What are your payment terms?

If you’ve decided on domestic manufacturing, you may want to ask for a few site tours (once you’ve whittled your list down to 2-3 companies). Most companies will be more than happy to oblige!

Scaling up machinery from L.A.C.Conveyors and Automations

5. Building and maintaining a relationship

When speaking to potential manufacturers, it’s good to delve into how the relationship would work on a day-to-day basis. Will you have one point of contact? If so, how should you reach them and when will they be available? You may also wish to organise regular phone calls or face-to-face meetings.

Don’t forget that you also play a role in the process build trust by keeping in touch, keeping up-to-date with payments and letting your manufacturer know of any important changes either to your product(s) or your business.

Going from making a few dozen products in your kitchen every day, to scaling up into hundreds or thousands, is an exciting yet scary prospect. Taking the next step, whether that involves hiring a few members of staff, or finding a manufacturer to work with, will require both time and money, but you’ll soon reap the benefits as you notice an increase in brand awareness and interest and sales from suppliers and customers.

If you’d like to discuss your requirements with us here at L.A.C. Conveyor Systems then you can email us any time. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn

More food for thought…

Hey, Charlotte here, thanks for reading through to the end! If you enjoyed this then you’ll love ‘How to protect your intellectual property, and ‘How to bring your food products to life with printed packaging‘.

Or, hang out with us for a bit longer and try out my 10-day free trial in The Smoothie Bar – I’ll teach you how to do your own responsive PR in only 10 mins a day!

The Smoothie Bar teaches fab foodie start-ups how to do their own responsive PR in 10 mins a day for only £59pm

The Smoothie Bar 10-Day Free Trial

(You only get to do this free thing once, so make sure you’ve got Twitter, a FB account and those 10 mins a day ready!)

Join us in The Smoothie Bar and learn how to do your own responsive PR in only 10 minutes a day. This is a quick and easy way for any start-up working in the food industry – producers, consultants, nutritionists etc. – to get their brilliant brand out there.

We take your card details at this stage so that you can easily become a Smoothie at the end of the free trial if you want to stay. No first payment is ever taken without your say so.

Click below to set up your card details and join the free trial.

What happens once I’ve pushed the button?

1. You’ll do the GDPR thing with email sign up, get an invite link to The Smoothie Bar Facebook group and receive your welcome email.

2. Click the Facebook link and I’ll let you in.

3. Check into the group for 10 minutes a day and get your PR party started!