How to find a manufacturing partner for a new food/drink brand

By Tom Lock, Founder, AP Brands

 Have you developed a food or drink product that you think could be a winner?  To take your product from kitchen table to market you’ll need to talk to manufacturers. You’ll need someone who can produce your food or drink product at scale as it becomes successful. This may feel like a big mountain to climb but it can be done.

For all four of the snacks brands I’ve launched over the past five years, high-quality flavour without additives is the unique point of differentiation. This meant putting a lot of energy into finding the right manufacturer. Let me share some useful tips:

Contact a number of manufacturers

Speak to as many manufacturers as possible, especially if you have no prior experience in the industry.

Start with smaller manufacturers to learn the process and find out how they might be able to help with product development. Then speak to larger manufacturers to discover their volume requirements and the price difference.

Particularly in the early days you need to be able to leverage your position to get the best pricing, and the best way to do this is to have as many options on the table as possible.

Remember that small manufacturers will usually be more flexible, more willing to help with product development, and able to handle small order volumes. However, they’re usually more expensive and could struggle with larger volumes.

Larger manufacturers will often be able to deliver the best prices but often need larger volumes. As a result, you will need to be more bullish with your forecasts.

Speak their language

Read books and trade publications to brush up on the relevant food law as well as general industry jargon. The more knowledgeable you sound, the more you’ll be taken seriously.

Using the wrong word or being caught out on a piece of law may seem like a relatively minor error but companies may interpret it as a signal that you’re new to the game and take advantage. A little research is a valuable investment!

Make things simple

Many manufacturers are put off by complex demands. So, at least at the beginning, make your project sound as simple and easy as possible. Wait until the second or third meeting to introduce complexity.

Start by defining the absolute essential aspects of your product, things that are fundamental to your brand. With Awfully Posh, for example, it was essential for the pork scratchings to be full of flavour without any additives. Aside from these USPs, I could be fairly flexible, and it was relatively easy to find a manufacturing partner.

Get buy-in for your vision

You need your manufacturer to believe in your vision, especially if you are pre-launch. Make sure you come prepared with a detailed strategy and share as much of it as you can with your potential manufacturing partners. Obviously, there will be aspects you don’t want to share, but the mission and vision need to be clear, practical and exciting.

If you can get them to “believe” in your growth plan then you should be able to convince them to start with smaller volumes and help you grow sustainably.

Prepare your forecasts

It’s vital to deliver a detailed forecast to your manufacturing partner. Don’t be scared to be optimistic, but make sure it is still realistic. Manufacturers will want to know that your brand is likely to grow, that the price works with your commercials, and that the relationship has longevity. Remember, manufacturers will have some skin in the game, having worked out the setup and production methods for your products, so they need to know the order volumes, profits, and range is likely to grow.

Without divulging sensitive informative consider breaking it down by channel and month, over at least two years. If you’re well prepared you will be taken seriously.

Manufacturing maybe a new world for you. However, with the right approach you can find a long-term manufacturing partner to work with as you develop your brand and range of products.


Thomas Lock is the founder and Managing Director of Awfully Posh (AP) Brands, a FMCG snacks company. Referred to by the Daily Telegraph as “the man who made pork scratchings posh”, Tom launched his pork scratching brand, Awfully Posh, in 2013. He soon launched a further three snacks brands, The British Crisp Co., The British Popcorn Co., and Create A Crisp, selling a total of over 5 million bags to date. AP Brands’ snacks are now stocked in supermarket giants such as ASDA, Tesco, Waitrose, Amazon & Wholefoods Market.

Tom on LinkedIn

Awfully Posh on Facebook


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