Archive for April, 2013

Venture Capitalists: In our Food

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Venture capitalists annually invest $30 billion in start-up companies. In 2008, less than $50 million went to food start-ups. In 2012, that figure rose to $350 million. What kinds of food businesses do they invest in?  (Today’s New York Times.)

Some are reinvented ideas for online businesses that don’t actually produce food but help people find it, such as online ordering companies ChowNow or GoodEggs. Plated is another repackaged idea that sells the upscale version of ready-to-make dinner kits (sort of like Taco Bell already found on supermarket shelves).

Other businesses are capitalizing on the ideas of sustainable, environmentally correct, and health trends such as fewer animal products and organics. A most interesting business is Hampton Creek Foods.  Their homepage touts Innovation and Sustainability, and pictures three adorable cupcakes stacked and juxtaposed to links such as “Featured in Popular Science” and “Download our Sell Sheet Here!”

We’ll have to see where this trend goes. It seems the opposite of our back-to-nature, local, seasonal, healthy eating, organic trends. I don’t see any impact positive or negative on small home-based food businesses. But if you have a grand idea, apparently anything goes…

Have an idea? Looking for an investor?

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Marketing for Dummies or: Sprinkle Less

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

The Salt Sense product touts that it has 33% less sodium. (It’s also twice the price per ounce of real salt.) Couldn’t we just use less salt?

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If I was sprinkling salt on my food, I could sprinkle less. If I had a recipe and wanted to cut down on the salt level, I would change my recipe to reflect the reduction and measure less salt.

For instance, if my original recipe called for 1 tablespoon salt and I wanted 33% less sodium (as advertised above), I would change the recipe to 2 teaspoons salt. Would that not work?

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Earth Day!

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

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Today marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of our modern environmental movement. April 22, 1970 was the first US Earth Day, which began as a national teach-in day. For some history, read here and here and here.

Are you prepared for Earth Day?
Do you have any products to help celebrate this popular celebration day? As a business, sales are created when we take advantage of celebration days. American Food and Drink Days is a monthly calendar to help us plan ahead.

Taking advantage of celebration, or special days.

For the above cookies, prepare your favorite sugar cookie or shortbread dough. Color half the dough with green coloring and marble together the green and white dough. Roll into logs and refrigerate until hard, at least one hour. Slice and bake.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Homemade Pie Class

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Do you have fear of pie?

Do you have fear of pie? Stay ahead of the trend and make your own luscious pies. Find out what’s involved in making perfect pies and pastries. We’ll make two different crust recipes – both simple, both delicious – mouth-watering crusts that will have people asking for more. You’ll leave class with a homemade pie plus a strudel or tartlets, and the knowledge that you’ll be able to reproduce these again.

If you live in the Hudson Valley, join us for our next pie class: Homemade Pie! April 24 4:30-8:30 pm

To register, call BOCES (845) 331-5050

Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you’re thinking about starting a business, or want to expand your product line, this class is for you.

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Home Baking Skills for Profit or Pleasure

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

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Are you starting, or thinking about, a home kitchen business? Writing a simple business plan is the first step in launching a successful business. The second step is understanding basic issues such as efficient production methods, how to maximize your kitchen workspace, and the all-important food safety.

Join us next Saturday, April 20, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm for my next class at the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY.

Home Baking Skills for Profit or Pleasure
Gain the confidence of an industry professional! In this class, we’re moving out of the kitchen and into the classroom for a comprehensive discussion of commercial baking techniques. In just a few hours, you will find out how to turn your kitchen into a well-run production area, utilizing shortcuts and tricks for recipe and product development, quantity production (including scaling up recipes and using the assembly line method), shelf-life testing, packaging, storage, food safety, and more. You’ll learn everything you didn’t know to ask about equipment and appliances, and how oven heat affects baked goods. And you will discover the art of maximizing baked goods for visual and sales appeal and discuss how to adapt traditional recipes for healthier baking with whole grains. Whether you’re baking for profit or simply want to learn tips and tricks from a professional, this class is for you.

As a participant in this class, you will enjoy lunch and receive a copy of Home Baking for Profit to take home.

About the Instructor
Mimi Shotland Fix, author of Start & Run a Home-Based Food Business and Home Baking for Profit, began a licensed home kitchen business in 1979. She has since owned and operated several successful retail bakeries, worked as head baker and pastry chef for multiple restaurants, was featured in Cooking Light magazine, developed products for corporate food companies, and tested ovens for a major appliance company. Later, she returned to school for an MA in writing and food studies. Ms. Fix owns a culinary consulting firm and teaches business and hands-on baking classes in several local colleges. Her website, BakingFix.com, provides continued support for small food businesses.

To register for next Saturday’s class.

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Before You Start a Business

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Are you thinking about starting a business? Writing a simple business plan is the first step in launching a successful venture. This plan will help you understand your overall ideas, if they are feasible, and how to proceed with implementation. In general, a business plan will help you to ask and answer basic, important questions such as:

Why should customers buy from you instead of the competition?

Writing a plan will help you figure out what to sell, who to sell it to, and the importance of product pricing.  A finished plan will help you reach your customers. It will identify your target market and your competitive advantages (what you offer over competing businesses serving that same market), and what advertising strategy you need to reach them.

If you are new to business and new to food-related production, I don’t expect you to know all the answers. But most important, you will begin understanding the process. Unfortunately, many folks jump in without considering the reality of basic business issues. Small business failure can often be averted by starting at the beginning with a detailed business plan.

One day I was having lunch with a group of office workers (who had no knowledge of my business background).  From The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix, page 247.

… I made a Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Torte and during lunch as we cut into the cake, Louise said that the bakery on Ray Way Drive was out of business and the River Baking Company (which I thought was not that good) had moved in.

“You should open a bakery!” exclaimed Louise, putting down her fork.

“Been there done that,” I replied.

“You should open one in Mayville,” she continued. Mayville was a nearby, economically depressed little town. Louise began yakking about an empty storefront that had several different businesses in succession and was currently empty. Most recently it had been a deli owned by a woman with a catering business. The owner didn’t have regular store hours because of her catering. I guess she figured people wouldn’t mind showing up for coffee and donuts and finding a locked door.

I responded that the location was not great, but Louise insisted it was the best place ever to put a bakery. Their lunchroom conversation turned to the idea of how a gluten-free café or a cupcake shop would be packed with customers. Others chimed in, sure that the location was a winner. Were they thinking about opening a bakery?

This is a good example of why small businesses open and close so quickly, I thought. People with no business experience listen to people who also have no business experience.

“Don’t forget to write your business plan,” I said, heading home.

The above conversation happens far too often. If you do not want to be another statistic in the failure column, please take the time to write a business plan.

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The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix


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Healthier Baking

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Cookies loaded with whole grains and fruit.

Cookies for breakfast? These cookies are certainly healthier than donuts or most breakfast cereals. The healthy eating trend is here to stay. If you sell at a farmers’ market and don’t already have a product that incorporates a whole grain or fruit (fresh or dried), please consider at least one “healthier” product.

Young couples with children shop the markets looking for fresh, local, seasonal, and healthy.

Oatmeal cookies are a natural for this healthy eating trend. Most oatmeal cookie recipes already incorporate oats and dried fruits. Create your own recipe: start with your favorite oatmeal cookie recipe, use whole wheat flour instead of white flour, and add any combination of dried fruits.

My cookies have just enough batter to hold the dried fruits and nuts.

Small cookies are perfect sold in a small bag... bet your customers can't eat just one...

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The Five-Second Rule

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

The Five-Second Rule. Most of us have heard about this “rule” for years: If food drops on the floor it takes approximately five seconds for contamination to happen. Some people believe it’s true.

If your cupcake falls on e-coli or salmonella you are safe to eat it? And now, people are referring to it as the five minute rule. Who would possibly believe that if food is dropped on a filthy surface it takes five seconds (or minutes) to contaminate food?

Common sense, please. The moment your food touches an unclean surface (countertop, carpet, etc) it is infected with bacteria. Read more here and a short video from one of the food scientists at Clemson University.

If you are a food handler, please take the time to learn safe food practices. A good place to start is the USDA Factsheet. Also ServSaf from the National Restaurant Association and for the US, state specific courses.

The scary thought is what happens daily, in food production businesses. Many of you have heard this: If pizza dough lands on the floor, the employee grins, scrapes it off the floor, and yells “5-second rule.” In The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix I wrote about many things I’d observed.

I’m sorry if this book spoils your appetite. When I purchase items in a bakery or eat in  a restaurant, I often think back to what I observed in the kitchens where I worked. I have to not think about what might be happening when my food is being prepared.

A better rule to live by: only sell food that you would eat, yourself.

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