You don’t need me to tell you that Zimbabwe is going through economic problems. The one area that has withstood the economic challenges of Zimbabwe is the food industry. Some business activities like payphones can disappear completely. Other businesses like mobile internet didn’t exist 25 years ago. Food has been farmed, processed and eaten throughout and indications are that it will continue to do so. One great way to join the food industry is through canning. Farmers have bemoaned the losses experienced due to a lack of storage facilities for production and you can step in and solve the problem. Here’s how;
Regulation and food safety
In most cases, we talk about regulation matters a little down the line but with food and this business in particular the regulatory considerations will shape your business. And you will have quite a few to look at. Standards Association of Zimbabwe, your local authority and business licencing laws will all come into play. You will need to ensure compliance especially as you will be processing food on behalf of other people.
Consider your niche(s)
The next thing to consider is what type of canning you’ll be doing. You’re only limited by your desires for now but there’s a lot to consider. You can consider regular aluminium cans used for food, cans used for beverages, glass for food and even plastic containers for food. The market will inform you what is worth investing in providing. Whatever niches you choose make sure you research them deeply and make all considerations as to the processes. This will be very important for the next part.
The equipment will be your biggest consideration in this business and we are going to combine it with premises to simplify things. Earlier we said you will need to consider your niche(s) this is important because they will determine what kind of machinery you need. You can find machinery that does aluminium only or one that also adds glass, plastic and other options to the offering. You can find canning machines for around US$5 000 (F.O.B.) but a competent machine will run you around US$20 000 (F.O.B). F.O.B. Means Free on board and is an international pricing convention that simply means the cost of the machine alone excluding shipping, insurance and duty. You may also consider offering labelling services in-house which will put a little more money in your point while being convenient to the customer. Getting the right machine will set you back a few thousand dollars as well. You may need cold storage facilities and even a freezer depending on what type of food you end up dealing with.
We’ve already discussed farmers with produce as good target customers. There’s a small limitation to consider here which is that farmers are normally not food processors so they will not always make ideal customers, certainly not all of them. So will want to also make yourself available to food processors and manufacturers. Perhaps people can process food but not package it. That would be your ideal customer. A lot will depend on the equipment you choose but in the price range mentioned you can expect machines that produce up to 2 000 units per hour.
You will have to spend some time dwelling on the operations side of the business. You are dealing which food which in addition to being perishable has short windows in which it is in perfect conditions. You may have refrigeration and cold storage facilities but they may not be enough to accommodate everyone once your business takes off. You will therefore need to pay a lot of attention to your canning schedules and store management departments.
Remember you are working business to business (B”B) here so you will need to consider that in your marketing. Treat your customers and audiences and businesses and consider their real-world considerations when it comes to deciding whether or not to work with your business. You will do yourself a favour to advertise in community groups and forums that bring these people together in one place. Consider becoming a regular feature at Agricultural shows, trade fairs and expos.
There’s a lot of potential in food manufacturing and canning is a wide-open area. Consider the canning business if you have the requisite skills and experience to navigate the potential pitfalls.