Your first steps should be to thoroughly research your market. Ask yourself who your competitors will be, how will your products measure up against them, and why will customers want to buy what you have to offer.
Once you’ve established your unique selling point, don’t be fooled into thinking you can start the business the following day. The food manufacturing industry is a complicated one. There’s much to learn, and a lot of preparation involved.
“Once we’d come up with a muffin product we were happy with we started doing a lot of groundwork,” says Bhujwalla. “Everything from sourcing the machinery to learning the production process took us quite some time. It took us the best part of two years to develop the ideas and the products.”
You’ll need to think carefully about how much you need to start your food processing business. Manufacturing by its very nature involves expensive equipment. However, as well as traditional funding routes such as using savings, bank loans or private investment, the manufacturing sector has plenty of accessible industry specific grants.
Albone went to the government for a grant when he started Pipers Crisps. He was successful in obtaining financial help but warns it’s not an easy process.
“We received two grants – one was a processing and marketing grant and the other was rural enterprise scheme funding. You go through hoops to get them. We employed an agent to help us.”
Bhujwalla and Mulji went to the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) for help during their planning process. “Working with people like MAS gave us a lot of help both financially and in terms of good advice. They helped us with factory layout, machinery, dealing with retailers. They also helped us see where the pitfalls might be.
Bhujwalla also describes the process of getting a capital grant as a ‘long drawn out process’. “You have to satisfy a lot of criteria and it’s not a straightforward process. We employed accountants to help us with this.”