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Marketing Your Cottage Foods

Marketing is the overall process of meeting customers’ desires. It is more than selling. It involves the development of a product that consumers want to purchase and then communicating the product's existence and attributes to potential customers. Even as a small CFO, you should seriously consider how to market your cottage foods; many specialty food experts consider marketing the products to be more important than producing them.

The elements of marketing are frequently referred to as the “Four P's”: Product, Price, Place (Distribution,) and Promotion. Your marketing decisions are directly influenced by your customers and competitors.

The customer is your number one priority. Your success hinges on the customer's initial and repeat purchases. In order to market a product, you must analyze your customers according to their needs, the price they’re willing to pay and the best place for them to purchase your product (which are limited for CFOs). You cannot be all things to all people.

The advantage of being a CFO is the unique nature of cottage foods. Unique cottage food products appeal to unique customer segments. Therefore, do not try to sell your product to everyone. The particular group of customers your product is designed for is your “niche.” You can begin to determine your customer niche by listing what you think are the demographic characteristics of your potential customers. Also, think about describing your target customers by considering their lifestyles and attitudes.

To determine your “niche” in the marketplace, consider your competitors in your product category. Similar cottage foods are your competitors. However, similar products sold at mainstream grocery stores and specialty stores are also part of your competition. By looking at the competition, you can determine what you can do to more effectively meet the needs of your customers.

Positioning a product means creating an image for the product in the mind of the consumer. Although you may feel constrained by the Cottage Food Law’s labeling requirements, there is a great opportunity for CFOs to create an image that appeals to their target market.

Determine how you prefer to position your product after analyzing your customers and competitors. Some of the potential ways to position for cottage foods include:

  • Wholesome
  • Fresh and full of flavor
  • Goodness of homemade
  • Spicy and flavorful
  • Upscale appeal
  • Made with local ingredients

An image is created through the use of the Four P’s previously mentioned, the product itself, package design, promotional materials, price and placement of distribution outlets (with considerably more options when graduating from cottage food status). Each of your marketing decisions in these areas must be consistent with the positioning you are trying to achieve. For instance, positioning your product as the “made with local ingredients” but trying to place it on every grocer’s shelf in California rather than distributing through only natural foods grocers may be contradictory.