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Starting a Food E-commerce Business: 7 Pointers

Are you starting a food e-commerce business and looking to sell great-tasting products online? This is a great way to tap into a highly resilient market and show off your creations.

You’ll have many factors to consider before setting up shop — from packaging and branding to marketing. Here are the best pointers for selling your food online.

1. Make Your Business Legal

It’s important to follow the rules so you don’t put your business and customers at risk. You may receive a hefty fine if you forget to list an ingredient or allergy risk. Anyone selling food in the U.S. must follow the Cottage Food Laws if planning to sell from home.

Following these laws means you should know how to store food properly and keep it safe from dangerous contaminants.

You’ll also require a few other things to get started, including:

  • An operating business license in your state
  • Zoning clearance and permits
  • Annual kitchen inspections
  • Food handling training to ensure safety

Consider taking courses on food safety to put customers’ minds at ease. It’s also crucial to research your region’s guidelines and regulations on food handling. Apply for a business license on the SBA website.

2. Find the Right Supplier

Even if you’re making your food from scratch, you’ll need a supplier. Ensure you choose the correct one when starting your e-commerce business. Getting ingredients wrong puts your brand at risk and can lead to illnesses such as food poisoning.

Take time to check their reviews and look for transparency. Study potential suppliers by looking at their certifications and supply chain.

Furthermore, ensure your suppliers provide products with a good shelf life. That way, you’re not shipping foods nearing their expiry date.

3. Keep Your Inventory in Check

Maintaining your inventory can be a juggling act depending on your food’s shelf life. You may need to keep it tight, turning it over every one to two weeks. However, you’ll need to develop a strategy to prevent producing too much or little of the product. 

It’s highly important to keep track of this so your customers receive the freshest product. Educate your team on inventory management. You can also use barcodes to keep track of your supplies. 

4. Decide on a Fulfillment Strategy

Your order fulfillment strategy is one of the most important elements of e-commerce. Ensure you pick the method that speaks to your audience because 54% of customers won’t place orders with high shipping costs.

Make your fulfillment terms clear, whether you decide to deliver to your customers or offer pickup only. They’ll need all the information they can get to know when and how they’ll receive their food before placing an order.

5. Determine Branding and Packaging

Studies show that 72% of American consumers believe product packaging design greatly influences their purchase decision. It’s important to get this right so you have a good branding image. 

Your branding must be approachable. However, it should also be relevant and nail its personality. For instance, an organic food company might incorporate lots of natural colors and images of plants.

The packaging is crucial for shelf appeal, but it also needs to meet compliance. Your food products should have labels and complete disclosures of their ingredients and allergens. It should also have the net quantity, weight, and the name and location of the producer.

Follow the online guidelines to ensure you’re obeying all labeling rules.

6. Set up an Online Store

Part of starting a food e-commerce business is launching a website so customers can place orders. Places like Shopify, Squarespace and BigCommerce are some of the best platforms to host your site.

Each e-commerce platform has its pros and cons, but Shopify is one of the most well-known store builders. You can always design something that attracts your audience.

You’ll need to take high-quality product photos to make the food look irresistible. Additionally, ensure you write detailed product descriptions to persuade people to buy.

Content and images should compel your visitors to take action. Furthermore, you’ll need to include:

  • About us page
  • Contact page
  • Blog page
  • FAQ page
  • Certificates and accreditation
  • Pop-ups and landing pages

7. Market Your Food Business

Setting up an online shop doesn’t stop there. Your audience needs to know your business exists. You can do much of your marketing through local markets and street festivals. However, building an email list will help start your online efforts. 

Email is one of the most effective marketing tools today — it builds trust and credibility with your prospective customers. Plus, multiple interactions will eventually turn those leads into buyers.

Additionally, you’ll use your blog page to promote your website, share recipes and recommend products.

Social media is another great way to showcase your goodies. People love to see food images on Instagram and Facebook, so be sure to post consistently and engage with your audience. 

Sell Your Food Online

You’ll need to learn many things when starting a food e-commerce business. However, once you gain traction, you’ll reap the rewards of a sustainable profit. Your entrepreneurial dreams will come to life as long as you adhere to the rules and regulations and adapt. 

Remember to enjoy the process but be cautious — and always do research before you dive in.

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