Written by CMG News Contributor, Barb Upchurch
I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of my core specialty food clients to compare notes, talk about the state of our industry, learn what is working, and talk about what we can do collectively to help one another. Our group included Ames of AR’s Hot Southern Honey, Jill from Pastry Base, Robin (aka Birdie) of Birdie’s Pimento Cheese, America from Salsa Don Sebastian, Courtney from Sorva Syrups, Sequoia of Favour Cookie, and our amazing food photographer Jacqui DePas.
It’s been a year of major adjustments, rethinking business models, and constant talk of the overused word - pivoting. There is one theme resonating with the specialty food industry, food is selling and we are in a state of opportunity. The Apple Cart Company helps food businesses grow. Learning alongside my client base, I have had my eyes on the marketplace throughout this new climate. It is fascinating to see how this new normal has changed how we work.
What have we learned? In March the insanity began with food and supply chain shortages; the whole country became obsessed with stocking their pantry and fear was a driver in the market. My clients had a hard time keeping up with the demand, particularly when delays began in the delivery of core ingredients, such as flour, or shipping supplies.
What do we know now? The need for comfort food has been in high demand. Grocery stores, local corner shops, and specialty food markets have had a hard time keeping the shelves stocked. When people couldn’t socialize or enjoy your favorite restaurants or hobbies, the Corona diet began. Eating your favorite comfort foods at home began - a gift to the specialty food industry.
What worked? Luckily, my clients were all prepared to sell directly online to consumers (ok, this was not luck, but by design.) Online sales blew up and the restaurant industry suddenly had to get up to speed. We bundled our products, offering Care Packages, Mother’s Day Gift deals, and Parties in a Box, which increased the price of the sale allowing enough margin to offer free shipping. This model has been essential in increasing online consumer sales.
What needs to happen? With no end in sight, the major focus is increasing consumer sales with the ability to ship nationwide. An essential component of this is keeping up with your email list and creating sales worthy content on a regular basis. While this sounds easy, it is not. Plus there have been shortages in shipping supplies, so keeping inventory stocked has been key. On the wholesale side, there are so many opportunities to keep the shelves full of love from local vendors.
The State of Our Food Union is bright! We are collaborating, cross-selling our products, bundling in packages, and supporting one another. On our wish list: better distribution sources, but that is on topic for another day. I am so thankful for our amazing food community in Richmond and the regional area, supportive and kind to all.
Photos by: By Jacqui Photography
Barb is a co-founder, and now owner, of The Apple Cart, a company that helps create and grow food businesses. The agency provides solutions for all stages of business development in the food industry. To contact Barb directly, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.