Starting a food or beverage processing business

Starting a food processing business in British Columbia provides many opportunities and also presents unique challenges. First steps involve business planning, determining market opportunities and networking to find the knowledge, expertise and resources required.

Define the business model

As you imagine the types of products you would like to create, consider the type of business structure that best suits your situation. This step is crucial, not only to the start-up stage of your endeavour, but to the mid and long term success as well.

Your business structure will greatly influence the financial, operational and growth options in the future. Small Business BC provides tools to assist in organizing your business structure and navigate the appropriate regulations, licences and agencies responsible for your business category.

Confirm zoning

Municipal governments have land use zoning and other bylaws that affect businesses. Contact your local municipal office for advice on which local government regulations may apply.

Obtain permission to work with and sell food

All food processors in B.C. are required to develop, maintain and follow a written food safety plan and sanitation plan that must be submitted to, and be approved by, your local health authority. They will assist you in locating an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) to review your plans and guide you through any additional food safety requirements for distributing or selling your processed food products to the public.

Find a local health authorities in British Columbia:

Locate a processing facility

Think about where your product will be made. Options to consider include:

  • Shared-use kitchens are an economical way to get started
  • Rent commercial kitchen space from a restaurant or other food manufacturer
  • A co-packer is a business that will manufacture a product for you. These relationships vary greatly in scope and can be difficult for new entrepreneurs. Always seek advice from an industry professional before entering into an agreement. If you are unsure how to proceed with securing the services of a co-packer, consider asking a business in your network who already uses one.

Conduct market research

Research is always the foundation of a good business plan.  Examining statistical data can help you explore the viability of your business. Statistics are available on B.C. agriculture, seafood and agrifood sectors, B.C. food exports and export market analysis.

Take time to look at similar products in the market place and record as many details about the product as possible. Imagine yourself as the consumer. Observe who is buying these items. This will help create a profile of your primary target market and aid in creating the plan to market to these groups. Identifying the triggers for a purchase will contribute to product design, brand and marketing media.

Test the market

British Columbia has a network of over 150 farmers markets that also serve as micro business incubators and work well at determining demand for your product.

Build a team

The early stages of business growth involve many different tasks and responsibilities. It is important to develop a team of knowledgeable and experienced people right away. Mentors, colleagues and industry leaders are an invaluable part of your network.

There are many associations, institutes and cooperatives that exist for different food categories, processes or industries. These organizations will provide a basic level of assistance to non-members, although by becoming a member provides access to peer groups, tradeshows, list-serves and networking. Free advice is not always sufficient, so be ready to hire a professional if needed.