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How to Run a Specialist Food Business

If you have a specialist food business, here are some tips on how to run it!

As more out-dated, foreign-owned food plants close across Canada; organic and local produce are in higher demand.

There seems to be a demographic shift away from the big brands and budget buys in favour of home-grown, organic ‘agri-food’.

Western consumers are looking for products like this, especially as millennials become more health-conscious.


The niche sector

Whether you run anything from a pretzel stand or an Asian grocery store, you should be offering a niche product or service that caters to the demographic in your location.

If you’re looking to expand an online business to a brick and mortar premises, always consider supply and demand for your product in the locations you’re considering.

To create a successful specialist food business, you must cater to the needs of your specific customer base.

If you’re struggling to know what niche will work best for your business, consider your own personal experience and knowledge.

Whether you’re passionate about Italian food and culture, or you have experience working in a vegan restaurant, if you already have knowledge on a specific food product or cuisine, use this to your advantage and to find out what your customers need and want – no matter how specialist and outlandish.


Specialist expansion

If a certain product is selling well, consider offering the item as a promotional product; for example, if you stock a lactose-free ice cream, will the supplier discuss the option of selling ice-cream cones to your customers in-store?

It’s likely that a lot of the brands you stock will carry a higher price tag compared to budget goods that chain supermarkets offer; customers are more likely to ask questions and want to find out more about the product before committing to an expensive item.

Therefore, ensure your staff know about the items you stock, which products are tailored for specific diets, what health benefits do they offer and if they are suitable for any allergies or intolerances.

The knowledge that you and staff can offer your customers is the pillar to building a successful reputation in the specialist food sector.


Always be on the lookout for new brands and products within the ever changing and ever growing specialist food industry; especially with local businesses that are starting in your area.

Keep up with food trends, cooking programmes and recipes to make sure the produce you stock is fresh, topical and interesting.

Be active on your social media profiles and make contacts in various other sectors such as farmers, producers, manufacturers, grocers, delis, restaurants, chefs and brewers in your local area.

These are all potential suppliers for your specialist food store. Tasting events and food & drink festivals are also the ideal places to scope out emerging talent, new concepts and make some culinary contacts to potentially do business with.

If you are trailing new suppliers and products in your store, market the new produce to tie in with a specific food trend.

Faux meat and plant-based eating is all the rage with Canadian foodies, so promote your stock by offering customers a vegan burger recipe next to your fruits and vegetable display.


Online retail expansion

Being an online retailer in the food industry has its pros and cons; a major con is that customers can’t choose and physically feel the item before purchasing.

Offering your produce online can have sufficient benefits, as many consumers are going online first and foremost to find out about the latest specialist or health-food trends.

So, you need a website with high-quality images of your stock and informative product descriptions to entice your customers to purchase online.

Postage can be a considerable setback for any e-retailer and will hugely determine what type of products you will be able to sell online.

Fish, game, meat, fruit, vegetables or other perishable items must be properly prepared and meet the appropriate requirements for mailing. There are also regulations on the movement of certain plants, seeds, fruits, bark, plant parts and soil.

Two major pros of operating online are low start-up costs and low overheads; you can get your business up and running at the click of a button, without worrying whether you’ll sell enough stock to cover next month’s bills.

You can also attract a much wider audience rather than limiting your customer-base to your local area.

And if you promote your products and services efficiently, your specialist food website could be delivering products across Canada’s 10 provinces.

Krystena Griffin

About the author

Krystena Griffin writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other industry publications.


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