The 7 hottest food business ideas in the UK

If you’re passionate about food and keen to start a food-related business, there are plenty of options out there, and they don’t all involve cupcakes…

Lots of food business ideas require low investment to get started, and some can be run from home. These are our top seven food business ideas, from revving up a food truck to starting something seasonal.

1. Healthy food business

Healthy food is big business, with growing demand for healthy snacks, healthy fast food, and healthy meal planning. If you’re interested in starting a healthy food business you’ve got plenty of options, from setting up a food stall to baking low-calorie cakes.

But if you’ve got a new healthy foodstuff to bring to the market, this could really hit the spot. Earlier in the year startups.co.uk profiled some of the latest food businesses that are redefining healthy eating, with products including ‘rice’ made of cauliflower, and ‘crisps’ made of fruit. See if they inspire you to create your own innovative healthy food.

2. Food truck business

Once upon a time the words ‘food truck’ conjured the image of a burger van parked at a layby, but you’re now likely to spot food trucks at hip street food stalls and festivals as well as on the roadside. A vast range of food and drink is served from food vans, from fancy hot dogs to curry, and from coffee to cocktails.

But if you fancy starting a food truck business, consider the practicalities carefully: how will you kit out the van to prepare and cook food, and where do you plan to park up? There are various licences and permits that you’ll need if you’re planning to park on public land (a road, for example), while for events like festivals and car boot sales you’ll usually have to tender for a pitch.

3. Raw food business

Starting a food business doesn’t necessarily mean cooking. If you’re enthused by raw food, you could consider setting up a raw food delivery box business, selling raw food snacks online, or starting a raw food stall.

If you’ve developed your own raw food products, it’s a good idea to speak to local health food shops first to see if they will stock small amounts, or go to food fairs and healthy food festivals to test your product and get the word out. There’s a whole community of raw food fans out there, so writing a raw food blog and being active on social media is important too.

4. Food waste business

A whole bunch of recent food startups and not-for-profits are looking at the problem of food waste. ChicP is a dips company that whips up imaginative hummus from surplus vegetables, and they picked up an award at the World Food Innovation Awards this year. Meanwhile the Brighton Permaculture Trust has been picking tonnes of waste fruit from orchards and making it into juices and chutneys, which are then sold locally.

If a food waste business appeals to you, talking to an existing business owner may be a good place to start. You’ll need to figure out how you can get hold of surplus food and how you’re going to process and sell it.

5. Christmas food business

If you’d like to run a seasonal food business, you could sell luxury Christmas hampers online, or apply for a pitch at a Christmas food market to sell homemade Christmas cakes and edible Christmas tree decorations.

Alternatively, if you’re an excellent cook and a consummate host you could run a festive supper club in the weeks running up to Christmas, or teach cooking classes for people concerned about their culinary skills on Christmas day. These business ideas rely on you having a solid reputation as a foodie genius, though, so get working on your food blog and make sure your culinary credentials are up to scratch!

6. Food technology business

If you’ve ever been to the Ideal Home Show or a similar event you’ll know that a huge plethora of kitchen and food gadgets are now available, from high-tech tea infusers to desktop popcorn makers. If food technology is your thing, you’ll need to make sure your product is unique, useful and well-designed. Work up a prototype and get your friends and family to try it first. To protect your invention you can apply for a patent, but heed the government’s warning that patents can be expensive and complex, and that the process can take around five years.

7. Baby food business

Making and selling baby food could be a viable business idea if you’ve spotted a gap in the market. Mother and former Masterchef contestant Lesley Harris set up her baby food business SuperDish because she couldn’t find tasty readymade meals for her daughter, and wasn’t keen on the idea of baby food from a jar. SuperDish sells nutritious frozen ready-meals for babies and toddlers from six months to three years, including dishes like ‘five vegetable ratatouille with herby couscous.’

And Ella’s Kitchen - now a huge baby food brand sold in supermarkets around the world - was started by Paul Lindley when he saw a gap in the market for upmarket, completely organic baby food with bright modern packaging.

This can be a hard market to crack though: if you want to follow in the footsteps of Lesley and Paul you’ll probably need some funding and you’ll need to be prepared to spend a long time getting your branding and packaging right, as well as the product itself.

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Things to consider when you’re starting a food business

Funding

There are some funding programmes out there exclusively for food businesses. The Grocery Accelerator offers investment and coaching to new food and drink brands, and Crowdfooding is a new crowdfunding platform specifically for food businesses.

Registration

If you’re starting a food business, you’ll usually need to register your premises with your Local Authority’s environmental health service at least 28 days before opening, even if you’re running your business from home or from a temporary premises like a stall or a van.

Licences

Your food business may also need a licence. For example if you will be running a stall or van on the street, if your business will supply alcohol, sell hot food and drinks at night or provide entertainment, you’ll need a licence. Use the government’s licence finder tool to figure out which licences you need.

Premises

There are lots of regulations governing a food business’ premises. You must keep your premises clean and in good repair, and protect against contamination and pests. You’re also required to keep written records of all your suppliers. See the Food Standards Agency website for more details.

Insurance

Business insurance is an important consideration for food businesses, as it can protect you against compensation claims, as well as paying repair and replacement costs if your premises or business equipment is stolen or damaged. Plus, employers’ liability insurance is a legal requirement if you have any staff. Check out our food and drinks industry insurance hub page to get started.

Brand

Food businesses are very visual and your branding needs to be engaging and appealing. Think of a good name for your food business and get help with designing a logo and coming up with a colour palette and a good set of marketing materials and business cards. A good-looking website will also be crucial, so get some really good product photographs and write about your passion for food on your website’s blog.

What kind of food business are you keen to start? Tell us in the comments.

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