Taking your baked good specialty to the masses requires much more than multiplying your recipe. Whether you’re selling out of your home kitchen, a storefront or just baking for friends and family, all the steps for mixing raw materials, baking, and packaging are manageable in small quantities. At the retail level, the costs, workflow steps, and challenges increase exponentially.
Getting off on the right foot – Tracking
Producing bulk quantities translates to buying bulk quantities. And if you’re going to keep up production to meet demand without facing shortages or having too much product on hand (which will eventually spoil), you’ve got to keep track of your ingredients from the start.
You want to make sure the ingredients you receive first are used first, so you know you’re producing high quality and providing only fresh products to your customers. After all, if your service is consistent and your product is good, you’re building your brand and reputation.
Tracking lots of ingredients by expiration date is key for food manufacturers. Using a tool like SOS Inventory will give you that control and all the bells and whistles found in expensive inventory tracking software (but it’s much cheaper).
Working with an Excel spreadsheet is just fine when you are small-time, but for any chance at growth, you need to be able to identify waste, bottlenecks in production, all costs, labor, overhead, etc., so you know exactly how much it costs to produce your products and how much profit you’re making. Equipped with that information you can plan for upcoming seasons and decide how to invest cash flow.
Lot tracking also gives you a vital functionality for any food manufacturer: food traceability. If you’re notified about a tainted product, you want to track it down as quickly as possible, limiting the public’s exposure to anything made with it.
With a forward and backward traceability functionality, you can identify which lots of ingredients contained the contaminated raw material and recall them as soon as possible. This is important not only for the health of the end-users but also to protect your reputation and prevent losing any more money than necessary.
Sourcing Ingredients For Your Baked Good
If there’s one thing we’ve all learned this past year is what happens when you rely on international supply chains. While that’s not likely to be a concern for many food manufacturers, you should still consider the cost and impact of acquiring supply locally when possible. With fuel costs skyrocketing and labor shortages, it’s not so easy to get your product delivered within the promised lead time.
And on that note, the relationship you build with your suppliers is important for getting products on time. If they have equipment breakdowns or some other pitfall, it’s better to get a heads up in advance so you can plan – and possibly turn to an alternate supplier. It’s never a bad idea to scope out more than one supplier for your ingredients any way as you may be able to negotiate better rates for bulk quantities.
It’s one thing getting baked good out the door in one piece; it’s quite another shipping it across the country without it transforming to smithereens. Your packaging may be less exciting to think about, but ultimately getting a product to your customer in good shape and securely wrapped to preserve freshness are important considerations.
The good news is you don’t have to handle all the stages of food manufacturing on your own. You can approach a manufacturer who produces a similar product and see if they will white label for you. You can also outsource part of the manufacturing processes if you are challenged for space or the funds to set them all up.
Getting your brand on the supermarket shelves is an exciting prospect, but plenty of production planning and research should precede the onset of any venture.
Jennifer Bell is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey.