3 Hot Food Business Ideas

Like many people, I am a collector. But you won’t find porcelain figurines or old hub caps or even lots of shoes at my abode. Instead, I collect business ideas. Business ideas jotted down on napkins or post-its. Business ideas pulled from magazines and newspapers. Business ideas from on-line articles and printed out on scrap paper. Occasionally these ideas take over my office, escaping from their neat files and spilling over onto my desk. But when a particular idea shows up again and again, I take notice. These three ideas are on the upward swing right now. If you are considering a food business, you can’t go wrong with one of these options.

Artisan Cheesemaker: The milk industry has suffered through a few very trying years, but cheesemaking is all the rage. Perhaps it’s the desire to re-capture a more simple time, but artisan cheesemakers are popping up all over, especially in the traditional cheese making states of Wisconsin and Vermont. The American palate is increasingly sophisticated, and once we have tasted a lovingly hand-crafted Stilton or rich Gorganzola, there is no going back to machine-made, cookie-cutter cheeses.

Special Considerations:

  • Cheesemaking takes a little bit of time to perfect. There will be a period of trial and error before you are producing enough cheese to sell. Give yourself at least 6 months to get everything up and running.
  • Where to get your raw ingredient. Unless you own a dairy farm or plan to invest in a goat herd, you will need to purchase large amounts of milk (or soy if you plan to make soy cheese) from someone. Scout out local dairies and ask about purchasing their excess inventory.
  • Cheesemaking takes a fair amount of space. So while your kitchen may do for the perfection stage (before you start selling cheese) you may need to rent commercial kitchen space elsewhere once you are up and running.

Where to Sell Your Product: Look to sell your cheeses at:

  • Farmer’s markets
  • Local gourmet stores
  • Wine shops (cheese and wine naturally go together)
  • Special events like food fairs

Meals to Go: Just because we are eating out at restaurants less often, doesn’t mean we are cooking dinner from scratch every night. The fastest growing part of the grocery store has been the deli and prepared foods section. The down side is that after a little while, all the grocery store meals start to taste the same – plus they are designed for longevity and thus are full of preservatives and other less-than-healthy ingredients. Many of us are looking for good tasting, healthy gourmet options – leaving this arena wide open for cooking entrepreneurs. Look to prepare and sell pre-made dishes like vegetarian lasagna that need to be baked or partially baked, heat-and-eat enchiladas or tamales, and comfort food favorites with a gourmet twist like 5 Cheese and Mac or Orange Beef Stew.

Special Considerations:

  • The ability to recreate your dish over and over with the same flavor is imperative. So make sure that everything is measured, and all ingredients captured, before you sell your first offering. Customers may love your baked pasta primavera so much they want it every week – but they want it to taste the same too.
  • Sometimes we cooks and food business enthusiasts forget that the product has to be cost effective. Your Grandmother’s Osso Buco recipe may be a family favorite, but can you make a profit on the finished product?
  • Don’t forget that meals-to-go have a short shelf life (really only a few days)and the ingredients are perishable. Therefore, it is important not to over-purchase raw materials, and not to prepare more meals than you can sell at any one time.

Where to Sell Your Product:

  • Small, local delis who may want to add meals-to-go but don’t have the time/capacity to prepare them themselves.
  • By subscription. Take weekly orders in advance from individuals. Decide on a weekly pick-up spot and time. The main advantage of subscription orders is that you know in advance exactly how many meals to prepare, thus limiting food waste.
  • Senior living complexes. Many senior housing units do not have their own dinning facilities and would be thrilled to have high quality, homemade meals available for their busy clientele.

Gourmet Frozen Pops: If you are looking for a seasonal food business, gourmet food pops are the way to go! Even in a down economy, we like to have a little treat now and then, and hot summer days simply cry out for a frozen treat. Frozen pops have really gone gourmet recently. Based on Mexican paletas, gourmet pops are made from fresh fruits, and occasionally cream, in unexpected flavors like mojito, lavender, and rosemary-tomato. You won’t find any artificial colorings or flavorings here, as they are all-natural and low in sugar. You don’t need any special training to start a gourmet frozen pop business, just plenty of creativity.

Special Considerations:

  • By their very nature, gourmet frozen pops are, well…..frozen – and they need to stay that way. So you will need plenty of freezer space to store your pops. Check out commercial kitchen space or perhaps a local restaurant has some unused space they may rent.
  • Creativity and the willingness to research and test market new flavors is important. Your repeat customers will be looking for new, interesting flavors every time they purchase.
  • Unless you live in the tropics, this business is most likely a seasonal one. That makes it a difficult business to make a living from, but the perfect supplemental business for college students or teachers.

Where to Sell Your Product:

  • Food cart – set up your own portable food cart and visit residential neighborhoods on hot days.
  • Storefront¬† – If you already have a storefront with another business, adding gourmet frozen pops will bring in additional customers.
  • Water parks, youth baseball concessions, or anyplace else that caters to young families.
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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at SeedToPantry.com and HestiasKitchen.com.

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