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For the Love of Food Tips on how to become a successful food entrepreneur

By Mithun Appaiah

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As the popular saying goes, "Food brings people together on many different levels. It's the nourishment of the soul and body." How well you contribute to the nourishment is the whole essence of it. How many stories have we often heard, be it a foodie developing a taste for food business and eventually evolving as a food entrepreneur or a techie throwing a surprise by quitting a lucrative job to opt for starting a food business? Some others have even been nurturing the idea of running a restaurant since young and work systematically towards making that a reality.

However, having an interesting idea on food creation and delivery that will appeal to the target audience and leading that to fruition requires building a robust business model around it with execution capabilities. The task is challenging but an interesting one for the food entrepreneur.

True, the F&B industry has been growing at an astonishing rate over the last decade and the trend seems to be going upwards only. Food entrepreneurs range from cookies and cakes bakers in their own kitchens to big names in the processed food industry to a restaurant chain owner. Today, we also see young and energetic entrepreneurs taking the food industry by storm. Drastic lifestyle changes are demanding family's time elsewhere, away from cooking. So even small start-ups that provide home-cooked meals are growing exponentially.

A Recipe for Success

It certainly is a good time for a passionate food entrepreneur. With thorough groundwork, before venturing into the business brings good results later. A sample survey should be administered covering the product idea, what need of the customer it is satisfying, type of packaging and description on the label and product differentiators, to the target group. This report generated with the responses will make ground for a good business plan. There should be clarity in the business goals, understanding how the business works, developing the food formula, defining the shelf-life of the product, pricing, profit margins and mode of selling. Labour, resources, operations, regulatory and safety measures among others should be in place.

Analysis of the market potential and competition will provide insights for product development. Consumer insight databases will provide current trends and consumer profile that could be leveraged too. To gain a competitive edge and have a decent market share, competitor analysis can help the organization to develop and maintain the sustainable value of the food products offered. This can further be the base to design business and pricing strategies in addition to providing opportunities for product or services differentiation and brand positioning in the market.

Passion Overrides Formal Degree

Food business can flourish when the entrepreneur and chef show passion in their work. Having a true and inspiring story to tell of the journey taken to establish the business will appeal to the consumers. If there is also an associated social cause, the millennial population will certainly buy that.

Nurturing a passion and having an idea to make food that tastes good are not sufficient. This should be accompanied by a sound business strategy, branding, product positioning, supply chain management, and shelf strategy, among others. Today's consumers are well read, globally aware and do their research thoroughly. So if the food entrepreneur has passion, mission, and vision that can be weaved into a story, consumers are willing to listen and patronize even a small food start-up, unlike in the past where only big brands were sought after.

Advantages in Running a Food Business Go a Long Way

Besides translating passion to reality, food entrepreneurship provides the pleasure of satisfying people's need of consuming yummy food. Creative business owners look for avenues to showcase their culinary skills or art of displaying the dish to the customer's delight. There is an opportunity to use their keen sense of aesthetics as well. Smart food entrepreneurs cook up a solution for the customers' preferences, be it a healthy meal or gluten-free menu. Big data analytics can provide insights into customer and market demand and a business model can be worked around it.

With complete control of the business, the entrepreneur can create the potential to earn higher profits. Moreover, eventually food business can become a family asset.

Associated Risks and Rewards

The food business has its own set of challenges. It has a product that is perishable. Therefore, high responsibility for consistency and quality besides ensuring food safety 24X7X365 are a must. In an unfortunate situation of sold food being contaminated, the news can spread like wildfire through word of mouth and social media, forcing a product recall many a time.

To avoid such incidents, a risk management plan that is comprehensive should be in place. Leveraging technology, providing safety training to employees and consistent facility and equipment maintenance will go a long way for enhancing company's reputation.

Creating a successful food business can be complex and requires one to be on the toes constantly. But with the right set of ingredients in place across all business units, the serving will be satisfying and profitable to the food entrepreneur. George Bernard Shaw has so rightly said in one of his plays, "There is no love sincerer than love of food."

Mithun Appaiah

CEO of Innovative Foods Ltd, Brand Sumeru


Mithun Appaiah is the CEO of Innovative Foods Ltd, makers of the brand Sumeru. He is an expert with F&B industry expertise across the spectrum of sales, key account management, customer marketing, logistics, business development, P&L management, developing new business channels, e-commerce and start-up acceleration.

After passing out from IFIM Business School, Mithun joined Nestle India Ltd, handling urban and rural markets and building the rural market footprint, with distribution expansion into feeder towns. He was also instrumental in driving innovative in-store execution and execution templates.

He has won multiple awards and accolades, including Urja CEO & MD award with Britannia, Innovator of the year award at United Spirits-UB group,  National winner of premium brand contest with Nestle, Best outgoing student award in business management, and an the award for topper gold medal in Marketing during his MBA.



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