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Expansion tips for small food producers

Demand for locally produced food products has been slowly rising over the last few years, creating exciting opportunities for small food producers whose main selling point is usually their local focus. Read on for some tips on how best to take advantage of these and expand into new markets.

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British is best

A growing number of consumers are choosing food that is clearly labelled as being made in Britain over similar products imported from abroad. This is not just due to the environmental implications of buying something that has been flown halfway around the world, but also as a result of recent concerns over the safety and quality of imported food that arose when the horsemeat scandal broke out at the start of 2013.

According to a survey by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), almost nine in ten shoppers are now as or more likely to want to purchase British produce with traceable origins in the wake of the scandal, with over three-quarters strongly agreeing that more British food should be stocked by supermarkets.

It therefore follows that local food producers who go to great lengths to ensure their goods are mostly or entirely made using British ingredients should label their products accordingly to attract the attention of consumers keen to buy British. It’s also crucial that this information is made as clear as possible, as half of respondents to the NFU’s survey said they think the current labelling relating to food origin is either confusing or very confusing.

Products should ideally carry the Red Tractor logo with the Union Jack flag, so it’s worth looking into obtaining Red Tractor membership if you don’t already have it. Otherwise, be sure your labels are completely unambiguous – it may be worth investing in labelling machinery if you currently don’t have any (click here to find out more).

Find a niche

British consumers are becoming more adventurous when it comes to trying new foods, so local producers looking to expand may do well to tap into this. This could mean launching a new flavour of a current product or developing a brand new item from scratch.

Of course, the key to success when it comes to expanding into a niche area is doing your research to see how much demand there’s likely to be for your new product. It could be worth taking to social media channels (see below) to conduct an informal poll, or perhaps even commissioning more structured research through a third party.

Testing is also important. It’s a good idea to offer samples in your shop and/or at local food events to see what the public makes of your new product before you spend the time and money on a full-scale launch.

Get marketing-savvy

While advertising via the local press is all well and good for reaching the community around you, the internet provides a fantastic way to reach a wider base of potential customers, especially if you can build up a following on social media sites.

Many small food producers use the likes of Facebook and Twitter to promote their products, any events they’re attending and generally keep in touch with the people most interested in what they do. Social networking sites are also a natural platform for word of mouth marketing, so if your products are strong enough and your interaction with customers genuine, you’re likely to see rewards in the form of your followers spreading the word about your goods.

Just don’t forget to let customers who shop in your store or at your market stall know of your online presence, whether it’s through a label on your products, posters or general conversation.