5 Key Considerations for Starting a Food Business

Are you thinking about starting a food business? It’s a sector with vast opportunities, especially in Canada, where the food retail industry is worth nearly 150 billion dollars. While it may seem daunting, with determination, innovation, and passion, your culinary dreams will flourish in this thriving industry.

Whether you’re starting a food service or retail business, here are five key considerations to help you enter the market with your best foot forward.

1. Set Yourself Apart

The food industry is competitive, which makes starting a business in this sector high-risk. Determining a unique selling proposition is essential to make your business stand out. Focus on your strengths and highlight them in your marketing strategy to appeal to your target market.

2. Test Your Products

Test the quality of your product on a small scale before you make a major investment. Make your product available at a local community market or by setting up a pop-up location. Your initial customers will serve as your test market, providing proof of concept during your business planning stage. 

A test run will give you valuable insight into how your products will be received. It provides primary research data to help you test out key strategies such as pricing. Overall, it is an opportunity to work out potential kinks in your operation.

This is a valuable process for any business. However, food businesses have significant start-up costs that make this testing phase a necessary step for any entrepreneur in the industry.

3. Be Aware of Industry Regulations

There may be specific industry regulations that apply to your food business in addition to the basic legal requirements that apply to all BC businesses. Check out these resources to determine what requirements your business must fulfill.

Food Premises Guidelines

The Public Health Act Food Premises Regulation requires that food service operators obtain a Health Operating Permit and complete regular health inspections. It’s administered by local health authorities who license, inspect, and respond to complaints regarding food facilities.

FOODSAFE Certification

All food service operators in BC are required to obtain FOODSAFE Certification.

Liquor Licence

If you intend to serve alcohol at your establishment, you must apply for a liquor license through the BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.

Food Service Industry

Visit Restaurants Canada for information on current food service industry issues and regulation changes in BC.

Small-Scale Food Processing

For resources and information related to manufacturing food and beverage products, visit the Small Scale Food Processor Association and The BC Food Processors Association websites. 

Also, check out BC Food Connection to locate manufacturing with co-packers, commercial kitchens, and other facilities.

4. Create a Realistic Cashflow Forecast

Having enough funds can be particularly critical for food businesses. You’ll have expenses long before you start generating revenue and must ensure you can cover them, or you may need help paying your suppliers. You must identify and account for potential shortfalls early to assess whether you need additional financial support.

5. Learn From Others

Consider finding a mentor in the food industry. They can provide valuable advice for starting and running a business in that sector, which could save you from costly mistakes. 

Even if you decide not to enter a formal mentorship program, you would still benefit from connecting with advisors. This could include people with experience in the same industry or profession. Attending networking events can also be an effective way to meet relevant contacts in your community.

How Small Business BC Can Help Your Business

SBBC is a non-profit resource centre for BC-based small businesses. Whatever your idea of success is, we’re here to provide holistic support and resources at every step of the journey. Check out our range of business webinars, on-demand E-Learning Education, our Talk to an Expert Advisories, or browse our business articles.