Anyone new to the food and drink industry will wonder what skills they will need to move from an idea to a successful business. It can be intimidating to approach moving your product to the next level and embarking on the journey of building a business. There’s a lot to think about and many skills needed to give yourself the best chance of success. You might think from the outside that all of this is down to manufacturing and processing. But that’s simply not the case. The most successful food and drink producers have a range of skills that help drive their business forward.
The food and drink industry is worth over £22 billion in exports, and if you get it right, running a successful business can be very lucrative and great fun also. The first thing to remember is that you won't personally possess all of the skills you need to build your business from start up to scale up (unless you are superman or wonder women!). The skills you need should come from a wide range of sources and as you grow you can always hire this expertise from outside the business to reduce the fixed burn rate of your business.
Having worked with many businesses in the food and drink industry we have created this list of the top 5 skills we think you will need in your business to be a success;
#5 Engineering Skills
The days of people making a good living from producing a product from their own home are pretty much over. It isn’t scalable in a way that works and the hygiene regulations mean that producing from home isn’t a viable proposition. That’s where engineering skills are essential. Getting the right machinery in place will help any food and drink business get the most production from the shortest amount of time and manpower. These can be technical roles and the demands for the best in this field are very strong. If you don’t have this skill in your team then you might need to pay top dollar for a suitable expert.
Although we said this isn’t all about the processing, this is definitely an essential skill that you need as part of your food and drink team. A key part of processing is around driving up efficiency and new product/process development which can lead your business to receiving Research and Development tax credits from HMRC. Processing skills are another vital skill for the food and drink industry and help to provide the backbone of a successful business. The help maintain strong quality controls, help drive up gross profit margins and therefore improve the cash flowing in a business. In addition, new products help a business raise awareness of a brand and reach new markets and customers.
Finding the best ingredients for your food or drink product is a thankless task – especially when you have a tight budget or small margins. In addition, the fluctuations of currencies or the unpredictability of the harvest for natural ingredients makes this something of a minefield. So, you need the skill of effective procurement to be able to secure the right ingredients at the right price and at the right time. This includes being able to –
- Source the right ingredients
- Negotiate with suppliers
- Have the deliveries arrive at the correct time
- And do all of this within a budget
No wonder that this is a pressure point for many food and drink manufacturers. The industry will live and die on being able to make procurement a top priority as it impacts on all areas from taste to profitability.
There are always hoops to jump through as a food and drink business. This means that you have to comply to food regulations, react to customer demand and always be at the cutting edge. The Sugar Tax, for instance prompted some soft drink manufacturers to change the way they made their products. This takes technical know-how. The demand for Technical Managers and Specification Technologists is growing rapidly. This is an essential skill that would be ignored at your peril.
#1 Sales and Marketing
Setting your food and drink business aside from the competition is a tough ask. This is a crowded marketplace and there are always others trying to fight for the same shelve space as you. The biggest food and drink manufacturers spend millions a year on advertising to gain traction with the right markets and help them increase or maintain market share. If you are scaling up, then we assume you don’t have pockets this deep. This is where a skilled marketer and sales team come into their own. Think about using social media and other low-cost-high-impact solutions that can give you the results you need. This is the most important skill as markets become even more crowded as you have to find a way of standing out!
The biggest tip we can suggest to all business owners is to reach out for external help for you business. Getting support from outside experts can add so much to you as a business owner. A good place to go for the food and drink industry is the awesome guys from Young Foodies who are a great source of info and can help guide you on your journey.
If you focus on building the skills around you then your product will be primed to fly off the shelves!!