How to Start a Gourmet Popcorn Business

If you have a love for popcorn and believe that there is a service gap in your community where some gourmet popcorn flavors could find a niche, then you’ll want to know how to start your own gourmet popcorn business. Like any other food-based industry, there are certain health requirements that you will need to meet, which means you may not qualify to run this business out of your home. Finding out what local zoning and health codes happen to be will help you be able to develop a comprehensive business plan.

Many communities have a business incubator that will allow you to rent kitchen space that is commercially inspected and approved for commercial food distribution. Look into this as an option if you are trying to start a gourmet popcorn business while on a tight budget. Then you’ll want to follow these specific steps.

1. Research the business to see how you’d like to approach it.

Popcorn can be sold in a wide variety of ways. Some businesses have found success in the sale of cans as gifts. Others bag up their popcorn in small batches and sell them in local retail centers. A few gourmet shops have their own storefront and sell their popcorn over the counter. The type of approach you choose will likely determine the type of business licensing that you’ll need to pursue.

2. Make sure your business is licensed and registered – even if you’re an online business only.

If you are making sales of a tangible product like popcorn, then because it is a snack, there’s a good chance that you’ll be required to collect sales tax on the purchase. This means that even an online business will need a license to operate and you’ll be required to keep an account ledger that shows the amount of sales you’ve generated and what taxes are owed. Small business typically pay their sales tax 2-4 times per year, but if your gourmet popcorn business grows and meets certain thresholds, you may be required to pay sales taxes received monthly.

3. Make sure you have proper identification.

If you’re starting small and just plan to make, market, and sell the popcorn on your own, then you can skip this step. You can also skip this step if you plan on hiring independent contractors only. If you have employees, however, you’ll need to apply for an employer identification number for tax purposes.

4. You don’t need to have high traffic to succeed.

You may be in a small community that sees very little consumer traffic. You can still open up a gourmet popcorn business and have great sales by selling through outlet stores that have better traffic than you can achieve. You’ll need to market your product to these outlets and likely pay them a percentage of your sales to have them stock the items on the shelves, but in return, you’ll get a lot of extra exposure for your business.

5. Consider selling wholesale.

If you are making gourmet popcorn on a wholesale basis, then you’re offering others the chance to make money too. You’ll sell your popcorn in bulk to other retailers who will then repackage it and potentially sell it as their own. You get profits from the wholesale price and the retailer gets profits with their markup. It’s a world where potentially everyone wins, but don’t sell wholesale to your local community. Doing so would put you at competition with your own product and then nobody wins.

6. Setup regular inventory deliveries.

Because you’ve got a food-based business, you’ll need regular deliveries of the food products that are used to make your product. Gourmet popcorn needs more than just kernels to become profitable. You’ll need to glaze the popcorn with something sweet, like caramel or butterscotch. You might want to put other flavors in there as well. Maybe you’ll want to add almonds or peanuts to the mix. Some gourmet providers even top off their popcorn glaze with a drizzle of chocolate here and there. All of these food products have a cost and you need to have them in inventory, so begin a regular delivery schedule based on how much popcorn you’re making. Make the arrangement scalable too in case you begin to grow.

7. Create a stunning recipe.

Although there is only a certain amount of variety that is available in gourmet popcorn recipes, it is important that you make something that is uniquely your own. Tweak the standard caramel corn recipe by adding nutmeg to it. Add white chocolate instead of dark chocolate as a drizzle. The recipe that you’re using will become the signature of your brand. People will remember visual attractiveness and flavors and associate it with your logo. If the popcorn is good, they’ll look for more of your products when they’re out running errands.

8. Start your marketing campaign.

It only takes time to get a marketing campaign off the ground. You can begin a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and even create a Tumblr about your gourmet popcorn to begin raising awareness for it. Many companies will spend up to 20% of their capital on marketing, however, so paid campaigns like TV, radio, or PPC through Google can also help to raise awareness of your product.

Because you’ve got a food-based product, samples are going to be one of your biggest moneymakers. Put up a table at a local park after securing the right permits and then just hand out free samples of your popcorn all day. Make sure you’ve got business cards or menus on hand, but don’t bring product to sell. The goal isn’t to make money at that second.

9. Keep up the good work.

It takes time to build a food-based business. Keep your standards high and create tasty products. With enough hard work and persistence, you may just taste success.

If you want to know how to start a gourmet popcorn business, then these are the steps to follow. Begin your journey today and enjoy running a business that provides people with an amazing treat.

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