You may have come across the term specialty or specialty food in restaurants. Specialty food can be defined as food that is uniquely prepared premised on or inspired by a certain culture or tradition. Specialty food is usually considered to be unique and high value. High value in that it is typically prepared using high-quality ingredients. Specialty foods are often referred to as premium foods or gourmet foods. Such foods usually entail limited distribution to compact niches but are priced high. Specialty food is also acclaimed due to its high nutritional value. Specialty food businesses can rake in gross margins of roughly 50 percent. Today let us look at how you can start a specialty food business in Zimbabwe.

Understanding What Specialty Food Is

To understand the business idea better you need to know what specialty food is. We have already covered the definition but let us zone in a bit more. Specialty food can be anything. One common specialty food focus is what is termed artisanal foods. This implies that they can be ordinary everyday foods that would have been prepared using unique specialized tools and or techniques. It can also be that they would have been value-added to unique foods. Common specialty food focuses are cheese, seafood, pasta, pizza, ice cream, fried chicken, hot dogs, smoothies, traditional foods, and many more. Thus the possibilities are infinite.

Sometime before I once mentioned Hutano Foods; you can kindly check out the article. Hutano Foods is a Zimbabwean health foods startup that makes delicious, nutritious, and easy-to-enjoy foods. They especially focus on snacks, breakfast cereals, and porridges that harness the power of local Zimbabwean ingredients. These are indigenous Zimbabwean delicacies such as millet, sorghum, marula (mapfura), round nuts (nyimo), baobab fruits (mauuyu), mangongo nuts, and several more. That is a good example of a specialty foods business.

Key Approaches

You have to determine how you are going to package your specialty food business. There are two core approaches you can choose from. You can even blend them or run them concurrently. One is to make specialty food that gets to be sold as packaged products. This means you get to sell units or portions as wholesale and or retail. For instance, consider how food can be sold in tins, cans, sachets, and so on. Two is to open a food outlet that specializes in specialty food. For instance, it can be a restaurant, mobile kitchen, and so on. These are core approaches but you can always find to tweak them to suit your specialty food business vision. Another important consideration here is that you can buy into a franchise. That is if they are available.

Key Requirements

This depends on the specific nature of how you will package your specialty food business. It will also depend on the type of specialty food you will be focusing on. Whichever that may be you will need adequate working space for preparing the food. You may also need brick-and-mortar space to sell the finished specialty food products from. Even when operating the business from home. You will need applicable tools and equipment which again depends.

You will need personal protective clothing and wide-ranging utensils. You will also need specialized machinery where needed e.g. for processing, packaging, labeling, and so on. You will also need to have ICT hardware and software. These are just some categories of things you will need for your specialty food business. Registering your business is also an important aspect here. You must also set up a comprehensive online presence.

Financial And Human Capital Needs

While it can be understood that a specialty food business may need lots of money, you can still start it lean. There are many scenarios where you can make do with what you already have and get the ball rolling. Just so you know it is quite possible to start a specialty food business with less than US$100. To start this lean you would need to initially ride solo and operate from home. The good thing is you can gradually scale up your operations. This means overall, you can start solo and bring in more hands as the business grows.

Market Prospects

In theory, market prospects for the specialty food business are limitless. However, you need to conduct thorough market research to establish a sustainable market. Most importantly you need to press your foot down and forward on marketing. In the specialty foods business, marketing is at the heart of it all. You can have great specialty foods – after all, specialty foods are typically premium quality. However, if people do not know about them it will not matter.

No wonder market education is highly imperative for the specialty foods business. Niche marketing is highly imperative for the specialty food business. Your starting points are health-conscious consumers and those who are big on eating natural foods. Plus it is important to know that the main sales approach here is business to customer (B2C). It is also possible to target other businesses i.e. business to business (B2B).

Important Things To Consider

Business registration is paramount. You need to also appreciate that you will be dealing with food. The food industry is highly regulated thus you need to have the relevant licensing. Do not cut corners as that can get you into trouble with the law. Plus you may even end up causing health harm to your customers. Kindly check out the article on food industry licensing in Zimbabwe: food safety, handling, and processing.

That is what you need to know about starting a specialty food business. Typically it takes about 1 year to start and to bring your specialty food business to a smooth footing. You have to be big on using digital marketing. You must also find ways to leverage the use of e-commerce. Whilst you can of course run a specialty food business full-time, you can also comfortably run it as a side thing.