What to know if you’re thinking about introducing own-brand products

31 January 2024, 15:23 PM
  • Are you considering selling products under your shop’s branding? Speciality Food finds out what you need to know
What to know if you’re thinking about introducing own-brand products

Fine food retailers are known for their passion for great food – and for some, this passion goes beyond the day-to-day managing of a shop and naturally expands to producing food or drink products too.

Whether it is an on-site butchery or bakery producing fresh products each day, or a side-hustle creating store cupboard goods like chutneys and jams, expanding your retail store into own-brand products will take a significant amount of time and effort. But for those who successfully make the leap, the payoff can be great.

Building a USP

Fork Kitchen and Deli is a family-run deli with on-site dining. As well as running the shop and restaurant, co-owner Kairi Kett says the team produces its own range of products, too, including jams, chutneys and pickles; granola, muesli and nuts; biscotti and crackers; ice creams; fresh pasta and pasta sauces; and ready meals. “All products under our label are produced by us in house,” Kairi says.

Finding the right mix of own-branded products took a bit of trial and error from the team, as well as a constant review of customer demand. “When we first opened in 2020, we made a whole lot more, but we have since then discontinued a lot of items as our business and customers’ ‘wants’ have changed.”

However, making the decision to craft their own products has helped to build the brand, Kairi says. “Making our own products gives us a point of difference on the market, and it mirrors our ethos of making all our counter items on site. For example, you can buy a fruit scone from our counter that’s made by us and choose a jam that’s made by us to go with the scone!”

One of the key reasons to produce own-branded products is to help raise the profile of your shop and give it a unique selling point compared with other retailers in the local area. By not only selling great-tasting brands, but also creating products that your customers can’t get anywhere else, you’ll give them a reason to keep coming back – as well as getting your shop’s logo onto customers’ shelves at home.

“Selling own-brand products is in itself a branding exercise,” adds Nick Punter of Suffolk Food Hall. “A lot of customers take our products off-site to their homes or friends’ for parties or gatherings, and our logo and name is then spread. We pride ourselves on quality, and we hope this is spread through these interactions so that we gain potential customers who want to visit us for themselves.”

Quality control

When producing food and drink under your shop’s brand, quality is essential. Having a brilliant-tasting product associated with your store will only enhance your brand, but a less-than-perfect product could give customers a negative association. Nick believes having the ability to quality control products is one of the main benefits of selling items under the shop’s branding. “We have built a brand known for quality of product, and our own-brand products lead to the same customer perspective.” 

It goes back to the company’s mission. “Selling products under the brand reinforces our ethos that we are a place to find quality, fresh foods produced in Suffolk. Whilst we do stock a lot of products from further afield, there is a buying and sourcing directive for local products, and you can’t get more local than in-house!” 

Choosing the right products

Another benefit of producing food or drink products in-house is that it gives the shop the flexibility to adapt to changing needs and customer demands. “We have the ability to extend or reduce the range ourselves,” Nick says. 

Suffolk Food Hall sells its own branded Red Poll and Angus beef cuts via its butchery, as well as ‘Made @ Suffolk Food Hall’ branded bread, rolls and sweet treats made from scratch in the bakery and ready-to-eat products produced in-house by the kitchen team for the deli. “The bakers are in every morning producing our range of loaves, rolls and specialities and are always coming up with new ideas and seasonal products. They are a very skilled team, and it’s great to be able to see them in the food hall baking,” Nick says.

A team of skilled chefs located in the food hall’s commercial kitchen in its restaurant building create deli products like the shop’s famous sausage rolls, samosas, tarts and scotch eggs. In addition to this, Suffolk Food Hall sells several products made by suppliers but repackaged with the shop’s branding. “For example, Bay Tree make fudge and shortbread for us but with our own branding, and we have a champagne and prosecco which are Food Hall branded but supplied to us,” Nick says.

Weighing the pros and cons

While there are a number of benefits to creating own-branded products, it’s important to carefully consider whether this is the right move for your business. “There are lots of costs to producing your own products, from ingredients to packaging and marketing,” Nick says. 

And while it can be rewarding for your brand, it can also be a risky move if the product quality isn’t up to scratch, or if your price point is off. “There is a fine balance of customer perception in terms of price. You cannot price yourself out in terms of competition or similar products,” Nick warns. Plus, he continues, “If anything goes wrong it can affect your brand. If a mistake is made in terms of quality or taste, then it can affect the brand as a whole and the perception of other products being sold.” 

On the other hand, if you choose to sell products made by another supplier under your brand name, it’s critical that you trust the supplier to produce good-quality products. “You have to put a lot of trust in that supplier to keep to your level of expectation,” Nick says. “This is tough when you want to have full control over quality and product. When you’re outsourcing, it can be a little nervy at times, but you have to find the right people and producers,” he says. 

Once you are confident in your ability to create quality products or have found the right supplier to work with, and you have weighed the pros and cons and worked out your costs, there’s nothing holding you back from taking the leap into own-branded products.

5 key questions to consider

1. Are you confident in quality?

“If you are producing an item yourself, have you got the costs correct, can you produce to a high standard with a high volume, and would the customer price be accepted?” Nick asks.

2. Are you working with a supplier?

“If you know a supplier that can produce to a high quality, do you have a good relationship with that supplier and are there any previous examples of their products? You have to know you can trust that supplier,” Nick cautions.

3. What are your packaging options?

“Being a small producer and only making a small amount of each item makes packaging cost very expensive,” Kairi warns. “We also use compostable packaging for most of our range, and that makes the cost more expensive also.”

4. What are your labelling requirements and costs?

“We got a lot of advice from Environmental Health Officers,” Kairi says. “Also remember to research label designing and printing costs.”

5. Do you have a label design?

Nick advises ensuring your label design is right from the start. “Choose a label design that you’re happy with and that fits your brand. Try to keep that consistent when you move forward with new products. You want brand recognition as you grow!”

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