Growing your food business: Part 3

Learn how to grow your business from a direct sales or small wholesale business into a large-scale wholesale business. Michigan food processors offer tips that they have learned through the school of hard knocks.

In this article, the Vice President of Goodlife Granola talks about tips for business expansion. The tips were given as part of the Making It In Michigan specialty food conference in Lansing, Michigan in November 2014.

Mike Freestone, Vice President of Goodlife Granola in Holland, Michigan sells four flavors of granola at Meijer in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky as well as at a variety of smaller stores in Michigan. To grow the business to the size it is today, Freestone and his wife have been rolling money back into the business as it progresses.

Their product is produced at The Starting Block, a kitchen incubator in Hart, Michigan. They started out buying ingredients in individual bags and have grown to the point where they buy pallets of ingredients. Looking back, Freestone said he would have switched to preprinted packaging earlier in the life of the business had he known how much time it would have actually saved them so they could focus their efforts on other aspects of their business.

Freestone pointed out that, “even if you use a distributor, you still have to market in those stores since a distributor is not doing that for you - they just deliver your product.” He recommends that food processors talk with distributors to find out who they already distribute to and ask them to recommend stores that may be interested in their product.

“Most of our marketing is providing samples and networking,” said Freestone. He believes it is important to network in unconventional ways and keep track of those networks for later, when you need them.

The MSU Product Center hosts Making It In Michigan, Michigan’s premier specialty food show and conference, each year in November in Lansing.

The MSU Product Center, in partnership with Michigan State University Extension, provides business counseling for product development and marketing strategies that will help Michigan entrepreneurs commercialize high-value, consumer–responsive food products. For more information, visit the MSU Product Center website or call 517-432-8750.

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