Kitchen incubators offer product marketing services for new food businesses

Kitchen incubators help new food companies connect with wholesale locations and local markets.

“Kitchen incubators, unlike other commercial kitchens for rent, are invested in the entrepreneur’s success,” said Marcy Bishop Kates, owner and operator of Incu-Bake in Holt, Mich. In addition to providing production services such as production analysis, access to state regulators, and ingredient sourcing, incubators also offer resources to help business market their product.

First and foremost is product packaging as a key component to product marketing. The functionality of the package and its ability to attract the consumer is critical to the success of a package. Incubators provide product packaging resources, as well as referrals for local graphic artists and printers to complete product labels.

Once the product is packaged and ready for sales, kitchen incubators refer clients to on-line and local resources to use as they develop their marketing strategies. To make those first sales, incubators can provide businesses with contacts for direct and wholesale outlets such as farmers markets, retailers, restaurants, delis, chef networks and more. When companies are unable to keep up with the level of store distribution and need to hire a distributor, kitchen incubators can assist local distributor contacts.

Finally, and although it may be to the disadvantage of the kitchen incubator, an incubator operator can help a business determine when it is time to stop production at their facility. “There comes a time when we have to help the company determine whether it is time to quit, move on to a co-packer, or start their own production facility...sometimes business owners can’t make a business work because they can’t fit the business into their lives,” said Kates. “On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is a time when the business needs to leave the kitchen incubator and find a co-packer.” Incubators, as the term implies, are meant to serve as a location for starting new operations. When sales sky-rocket and production needs are so high that companies can’t fill the orders in the incubator kitchen, companies need to move on to the next level by hiring a co-packer or creating their own production facility.

The MSU Product Center, in partnership with Michigan State University Extension, provides business counseling for product development and marketing strategies that will help Michigan entrepreneurs commercialize high-value, consumer–responsive food products. For more information, visit the MSU Product Center website or call 517-432-8750.

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