Standard of Identity: Naming Your Product

July 23rd, 2014

In the U.S. there are federal requirements that determine what a food product must contain in order to be marketed under a certain name. Mandatory standards protect the consumer by ensuring that a label accurately reflects the product; for example, that mayonnaise is not an imitation spread, or that ice cream is not a similar, but different, frozen product. These standards are issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency also issues standards of identity. Standards of Identity

But only some food categories are regulated by the government. Meat, dairy products (milk, cheeses, etc), pasta, peanut butter, even white chocolate, all have definitions. The baked goods category, however, has no regulations and no restrictions. That’s why we see faux products such as Blueberry Donuts with no real blueberries (flavoring comes from imitation gum bits) or banana bread made with imitation flavor and no real bananas. No standard of identity also means we can bake cakes and label them breads.

How many of us bake banana cake (high fat, high sugar content) in loaf form so that cake appears as (lower fat, lower sugar) bread?

Is there too much government interference?

Setting federal standards may sound like a lot of over-regulation, but these standards benefit consumers and small businesses by protecting against adulteration and misbranding.

Recently, the honey industry has been in turmoil over this issue. Foreign companies have been selling a sweet golden liquid that has the appearance of honey but is a substandard imitation. The market has been flooded with a misbranded product and domestic honey producers are threatened with unfair competition. Two U.S. senators are working toward the implementation of a national standard of identity for honey.

“New York has some of the nation’s finest honey and hardest working producers,” Senator Gillibrand (NY) said. “To protect consumers and safeguard the integrity of honey products, we must adopt a national standard of identity for honey to prevent unscrupulous importers from flooding the market with misbranded honey products. The lack of regulation is a food safety concern and a bane to our honey producers.”

For more information click here and here.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! No regulation means we must use our own common sense. As small home-based businesses we can handle that, right?

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Cookie Decorating and Marketing Workshop

July 16th, 2014

 

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Visit SweetAmbs for more information and to register

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Holiday Weekend, Bakery Tour

July 9th, 2014

I love bakeries and visit as often as possible. I love trying new treats! But mostly I love the market research aspect. Regardless of what kind of a baking business you have, there’s a lot to learn from going to a retail bakery. I encourage everyone to do bakery tours. Look at the products on the shelf, how they are displayed, watch what customers are buying, and think about the visual aspects that encourage purchases.

We visited family for the July Fourth weekend and headed to Boston. It was late in the afternoon on July 3rd when we stopped at Lyndell’s Bakery. The shelves were mostly empty, which meant they’d had a very busy day. From their website:

Lyndell’s Bakery has served freshly baked cakes, pastries, pies, and breads daily since 1887. Located in historic Ball Square, Lyndell’s is one of the oldest retail “scratch” bakeries in the country. Pies, breads, specialty cookies, and half moons are chosen as Boston’s Best every year and families have enjoyed our custom made cakes forever!

(Great info, I just don’t understand why the word SCRATCH is in quotes.)

Lyndell's Bakery

Eye-catching and enticing window displays.

Great customer service, always important!

We made our selections.

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We bought bread, brownies, cupcakes, and several varieties of Half Moon cookies (Black & Whites).

On our way home to the Hudson Valley, we stopped at sugar me sweet bakers,  the most darling microbakery I’ve ever seen. Owner Ginny Farris began as a home-based baker, selling her wholesale products to area retail stores. In New York, the cottage food law allows Home Processors to sell wholesale.

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We bought (clockwise from top) Ultimate Chocolate Chip cookies, Cinnamon Roll Bars, vanilla cupcake, mocha cupcake, Banana Walnut muffin,

and a chocolate naked cake.

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Ginny’s secrets to success? Fresh products that are exceptionally unique and tasty, and phenomenal customer service.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Visit bakeries, enjoy new taste treats, and consider your time a valuable step in market research. For more bakery tours…

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Repackaged: Granola on the Go!

July 2nd, 2014

When I started in business granola was one of my first products. I made three varieties (peanut butter, basic, and maple nut) and they all sold well from the bulk bins in my local food coop. The biggest advantage for me was the incredibly long shelf life. I could make this product in large batches and keep in tubs until sold.

Granola is still a favorite breakfast food in my house.

Use a pan spray and clean up is fast 'n easy.

When I began teaching people how to start a home-based food business, I always recommended they include a product with a long shelf life, such as granola or biscotti. But over the years as the entrepreneurial trend grew, those categories became saturated.

But as the convenience foods category continues to grow, breakfast cereals are now repackaged and cleverly marketed in a new category.

Granola on the go! Two ounce bag net weight (1/2 cup volume) marketed as a snack.

Kellogg's on the go! Many breakfast cereals are being repackaged as convenience and snack foods.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Do you make granola? Is it delicious and different? Think about repackaging into smaller, snack sized bags.

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The Healthy Eating Trend

June 25th, 2014

Peach pie made with fresh peaches.

Cherry pie made with a whole wheat crust.

Organic blueberries!

Are these products healthy?

Now that the trend for healthy eating has become mainstream, has this impacted your baking business? Have you switched fat-laden, high sugar products for lite versions? Or use more whole grains or produce in your recipes? Or rely on organic ingredients to satisfy customers who are looking for healthy foods?

Squash, cooked and added to

a pumpkin/squash sweetbread.

Or is your customer base more interested in traditional sweets – cookies, cakes, pies, brownies – which are baked from classic recipes?

Fruit, which is naturally sweet, is a great idea and a good addition to your products. It’s possible to reduce the amount of sweetener in the recipe by using a higher proportion of fruit. But be careful of using too much fresh fruit which has a high water content; dried fruits, however, work quite well.

Apple pear coffeecake

cut and plated for a Sunday brunch.

The April 2014 issue of Bake Magazine had an interesting view on this subject. The editor wrote about “the fresh fruit factor” (p3), which mentioned the needs of some customers who regularly cycle through the diet then splurge eating plan.

This editorial addressed how bakers have struggled with the “dilemma of presenting health and indulgence to customers who may be dieting one day and splurging the next.” In our culture it’s a very real issue for bakeries or any eatery selling baked goods. He continued, “Quite simply, you can create the perception of health by adding fresh fruit to the top of your dessert.” Ah, visual appeal as the perception of health. One baker interviewed for the article stated that, “A fruit tart might have the same calories as a chocolate cake, but it’s perceived as a healthier, more natural product.” Yes, sadly, it fools many customers into believing they are eating healthier, less fattening foods.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! As businesses, we need to offer products that customers will buy. Depending upon your target market, health might not be a current issue. But with the healthy eating trend becoming more entrenched in our culture, it may be a good idea to include at least one or two items to your product line.

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Sizing Up the Farmers’ Markets

June 18th, 2014

Many home-based food businesses sell their products at farmers’ markets. These markets have become quite trendy over the past few years and more markets are opening everywhere. Many of the older markets now have waiting lists for new vendors with strict regulations as to how many vendors they will allow in each product category.

If you are looking to expand your sales opportunities and begin selling at farmers’ markets, or you want to add additional markets to your list of outlets, first review a market’s regulations. Then visit them with an eye toward how well they would benefit your sales.

How busy is the market?

The market above had five vendors. Can it attract enough shoppers to support your sales?

Are there vendors selling complementary products

that would draw customers

and create additional sales for all of you?

Are there already vendors with similar products?

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Home-Based Baking at its Best! Complementary products are ideal. And having competitors’ products can help stimulate sales,  but only if those products are priced right. Beware of vendors selling too cheaply. It’s often the sign of  a new business owner who has no idea how to run a business. Shoppers will be drawn to those vendors who will not survive for long but will undermine your sales each time they are at the market.

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What’s Better Than a Large Pie?

June 11th, 2014

An adorable mini-pie!

In last week’s class, Mini-Pies to Share, we mixed a classic flaky pie crust then made small individual pies.

We made fillings

then began forming the little pies.

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Larger pies and handheld pies need to have a rolled crust. But with small pies it’s just as easy to take a ball of dough and press it into the tin.

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If the pies are still warm, use the tip of a knife to pop them out.

If the pies are cooled, tap the pan and flip upside down. They will fall out!

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Handheld pies.

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Sadly, these little fellas were too hot and didn't make it in one piece...

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Small items are not only cute, but customers often feel it’s easier to buy a small pie than a larger one. And mini-pies are the perfect way for customers to buy their samples.

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Cake Pops… Why?

June 4th, 2014

I’m totally stymied by the number of people who sell Cake Pops (aka Cake Balls.) I can see making these treats if you charge enough to get paid well. Or when you have too much cake lying around. Or if you’re a dedicated hobby baker who loves trying new recipes and techniques.

But selling cake pops on the cheap? These are a labor intensive product. Each small ball must be coated and decorated. And the majority of customers equate small with inexpensive. It matters not that these are hand-decorated, time-consuming products.

At my bakery we made rum balls and amaretto balls, but only when we had unsold cake and stale cookies. The balls were a good way to use up leftovers that could not be sold. However, the balls were not dipped in chocolate. We wrapped them in small pieces of gold foil. The foil kept them moist and the gold made them appear upscale.

I no longer have a retail business, so I make cake pops when I have issues…

Yes, they're tasty treats. But still annoying to roll and dip.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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The Importance of Taking Deposits

May 28th, 2014

I received another distraught email yesterday, complaining about an order that was not picked up by their customer. My response is always the same: What is your written policy on orders, deposits, and refunds? Almost always, their response includes the admission that there is no policy.

Made to order cakes should always be paid in full before you begin baking.

If a customer orders several loaves of bread, take a deposit. Unless you don't mind getting stuck with a dozen or more loaves.

If you have a table at the farmers' market, deposits are not necessary unless someone orders quantity.

Without having paid a deposit, many customers can simply cancel their order – without even the courtesy of contacting you. In other words, you find out they cancelled their order because they do not show up.

It’s good business sense to state that orders are not reserved until a deposit is received. The deposit holds the date for the order, the full payment allows preparation to begin. For large custom cakes it’s common to request payment three to four weeks in advance. A good policy should state that orders are not confirmed, nor dates reserved, without a deposit or payment.

How much for the deposit? Many businesses require a 50% deposit with the balance due anywhere from one to four weeks before the event.  It all depends on the product ordered and what you are comfortable with. Your policy should also cover changes, cancellations, and refunds. Without a written policy, customers can request last-minute changes, or decide they no longer need their item and request a full refund.

This policy should be posted on your website and written into every contract.

After your initial discussion with the prospective customer but you have not heard back, it’s acceptable to send them a gentle reminder:

Dear Ms. X, we just wanted to remind you we have not yet received your deposit of ($xx) to reserve your date. Your order is not confirmed without the deposit. Until that time, your date is available to other clients.

Please let us know if we can be of any assistance in your decision making process. Our baking schedule is filling up quickly and we may not be able to fill your order if the deposit is not sent by X date.

If you have chosen another bakery, please accept our best wishes and think about us for any future needs.

Best regards, Us

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Cinnamon Buns With a Difference

May 21st, 2014

Cinn-fully Sweet!

In last nights class, Cinn-Fully Sinful, we made cinnamon buns and sticky buns. We substituted part of the white flour for whole wheat. As you can see above, the buns baked to a golden brown but were still a light color inside.

Think about your target market. Are they basic white bread eaters perhaps willing to try something new? With the definite trend toward healthier eating, it’s worth a venture into the health food market. How much whole wheat flour you add depends upon your perceived customer.

While the dough was rising, we made and divided the sticky bun syrup.

Dividing the dough.

Rolling out dough.

Downtime after shaping, waiting for the buns to proof and bake.

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Sampling our buns! Delicious!!

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Packing for home.

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Home-Based Baking at its Best! Most consumers love sticky buns and cinnamon buns. Adding some whole wheat flour may increase sales. It’s important to think about your potential customers.

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