How to Sell Food Online: The Ultimate Online Food Store Guide
The Ultimate Online Food Store Guide provides all the steps on your way to establishing yourself online as a food retailer are on.
We earn a small commission when you buy through links. Learn More
This niched industry has become increasingly popular over the last few years. The online food industry saw a whopping revenue of 136.4bn in 2020, and analysts expect it to grow by 27% year-over-year until 2024.
If these statistics don’t get you excited about this relatively niched industry, I honestly don’t know what else will. In this post, we cover how to sell food online from A to Z so that you can start confidently on your new business venture.
Step 1 – The Laws and Regulations
Depending on where you live, you’ll have different food laws and regulations. However, in the United States, it’s controlled by the FDA or also known as the Food and Drug Administration.
Before you invest in anything, it’s crucial to understand the rules laid out by this federal agency. Failing to do so can develop into extreme repercussions that can lead to devastating events. Although laws and regulations will change from country to country, state to state, below are some “standard” regulations you must abide by:
- Mandatory annual inspections for the FDA
- The appropriate permits from the FDA
- A valid business license to operate in your state
- Suitable facilities to store food in the cold, dry or hot environments
- Strictly no pets in a home or kitchen.
Within the food industry, there is an abundance of different rules and regulations you must follow. If a living entity is eating a product, it needs to be flawless for consumption.
The above is just a tiny minority of laws you have to follow. Before you do anything, you should thoroughly learn about the laws and regulations of your country. You’ll also want to become knowledgeable on overseas rules if you’re going to export your products.
Step 2 – Find a supplier
Once you’ve read through your laws and regulations for your country, you’ll need to find a supplier. Now, as you can imagine, there are two supplier options. One is you, and the other is a manufacturer. Depending on your business model, this will vary.
If you’re looking for a manufacturer, you may be in luck as online; there are suppliers for literally everything. From wholesale games to luxury watches and food, quite literally everything… It’s tough to narrow down the “best” suppliers for online food stores, as this depends on your niche. For example, your business may be steered towards vegan food, fresh veg, or meat. Because of this, you’ll want to find a supplier with a similar niche to guarantee quality.
Below are some suppliers you should consider taking a look at:
- Food Master – If you’re looking for an array of different foods in the United States, this is your best bet.
- GreenDropShip – This website is packed with online wholesalers, including businesses within the online food niche. Here you’ll be able to browse 1000’s of different wholesalers.
However, if you’re going to manufacture the food yourself with your facilities, to abide by most country and state rules, you need to mention the following on the packaging:
- All the ingredients that are used to make the product in percentages and grams.
- On your label must be a health table. This shows the number of fats, sodium, and much more than globally accepted terms.
- As you can probably imagine, you’ll need an expiry date on your product (if there is one).
- Mandatory, you should also have where the product is located.
By far, making your own food products to sell online is complicated with all the rules and regulations you must follow. However, once you’re used to the laws, you should develop a system that works fluently. Although the profits can be much greater if you manufacture your goods, the responsibility behind creating them is significantly increased.
From the above, you should be able to find or contact a supplier within your niche. Currently, the popular trends within the food industry are pre-made gym meals, healthy eating, and fresh fruit and vegetables.
The above trends are more than worth thinking about if you’re stuck for ideas, especially the pre-made gym meals as this is usually a subscription-based business model.
Step 3 – Branding, Packaging, and Labelling (for your online customers)
Whether you’re creating your own product or finding a supplier, you’ll need to develop some packaging.
When you go into a grocery store, you’re met with a boatload of different product packaging. To your mind, you may not realize, but some look more prominent than others. This is because they’re packaged well and use psychological marketing tactics to grab your attention.
Below is what you need to think about when designing your packaging:
- Visual appearance – When developing a packaging concept, you’re going to want to make it look appealing and unforgettable. This way, people will enjoy looking at your aesthetically pleasing product and remember your brand, so they’re able to tell their friends and family about your business.
- Packaging type – Within the food industry, there are various types of packaging you can opt-in for. This can be foil, cardboard, plastic, and much more. However, before deciding on your packaging, ensure that your country, state, or shipping destinations approve of this type of material.
- Gross weight – You’ll need to add the gross weight of the product onto the packaging. If you’re also shipping your food, this is crucial to reduce shipping costs.
- Net weight – Again, you’ll need to mention the net weight of the product on the packaging.
- Durability – Lastly, you’ll need to choose durable packaging, which can withstand being delivered and still look professional when it reaches the customer.
Packaging can sometimes be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful product, so take your time with this. Here you’ll want to make various packaging concepts and choose the most appealing one that suits its needs.
Step 4 – Create an online store
Now you’ve gained knowledge on the laws and regulations of selling food online, found a quality supplier, and constructed flawless packaging. It’s now time to build your store and learn to sell food online.
If you’re on a budget, I recommend creating the website yourself with a website builder like Shopify. It’s simple to use and doesn’t require a ridiculous amount of technical skill. However, if you want something more prestigious and unique, finding a website developer may be best if your budget allows for it.
Shopify for your online food store
The first thing I think about when it comes to website builders is Shopify. This is because they’re the most popular eCommerce platform to date, as they hold 20% of the total market share in the industry. For any business to be this prominent within an industry is rather impressive, and it also guarantees you’ll be investing in a quality product.
Without a doubt, Shopify comes with many spectacular features. However, to make this much more straightforward, I’ve broken down the main benefits you’ll receive from Shopify.
Total monthly price – For what you’re able to achieve on Shopify, it’s relatively inexpensive. Depending on your needs, there are three different pricing options. These are:
- Basic $29/month
- Standard $79/month
- Advanced $299/month
How much you spend per month on a Shopify account depends on what you’re turning over. If you’re starting, the basic option is more than enough. Once you’ve established yourself and receive a few orders a day, you can then move over to the standard package. Lastly, if you’re building an enterprise that requires a team to develop, monetize, and scale your business, you’ll want to opt-in for the advanced version.
Payment processors – When choosing Shopify, you’ll be greeted with a load of payment processing options. These include but are not limited to Amazon payments, PayPal, most debit and credit cards.
Automatic mobile optimization – Another great advantage to making a Shopify store is that you will create a desktop layout, which will automatically convert into a mobile-optimized format.
Remarkable-looking free templates – Although you’re able to invest in more interactive and “prettier” themes/layouts, Shopify’s free templates are also a great place to start. Again, testing out your business venture on a basic theme is completely fine if you’re on a tight budget.
Other website builders to sell your food online
If you’re looking to spend a little bit less on developing your online food store, you should consider the below website builders.
- Wix (business plan $17.00/month, basic plant $4.50/month)
- Squarespace ($12.00/month)
- Ionos ($1 – $10/month)
- You can also create your own eCommerce food store by using WordPress.
Web Hosting for a food store website
Without a doubt, if you want to be successful online, you best opt-in for a good web host. A web host is pretty much a provider that shows your website to the world. Without one, your website won’t be reachable. Below we talk about some web hosting providers:
The first company you should be thinking about before leaping into hosting is Bluehost. With a vast range of packages from shared, VPS, and dedicated servers to opt-in for, it makes them unbeatable within the industry.
Below are some statistics from their shared hosting package:
|Price from||$2.95 / month|
|Total traffic allowed||Not measured|
|Disk Space||50 GB|
|Average load time (US, EU, Asia)||0.55s|
As you’re able to grasp from their name, Namecheap offers a cheap alternative to hosting. With the speeds they provide, they’re most definitely worth considering as it’s such a low price.
|Price from||$1.44 / month|
|Total traffic allowed||Not measured|
|Disk Space||20 GB|
|Average load time (US, EU, Asia)||1.21s|
If you’re looking for a more premium hosting service, this unique gateway is the perfect solution. Here, you’ll gain access to many cloud-based hosting providers such as DigitalOcean, Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, Linode, and more.
|Price from||$10.00 / month|
|Total traffic allowed||1 TB bandwidth|
|Disk Space||25 GB|
|Average load time (US, EU, Asia)||1.14s|
Step 5 – Promote your products
Learning about how to sell food online will be difficult. But, to enhance the possibilities of becoming an online success, you will need to promote your products and get them in front of your ideal customers. Here’s how you’re able to achieve this.
Do your own marketing
The most effective way to market your products online is through two methods. These are:
SEO – These three letters are abbreviated for “search engine optimization,” which determines what keywords you rank for on Google. For instance, if you’re selling protein cookies, you’ll want to rank for keywords like “best protein cookies,” “chocolate protein cookies,” etc. By achieving this successfully, you’ll gain tons of free organic traffic, which can be priceless.
PPC – Next is paid advertising, and this could either be through search platforms or social media. Either way, both can be highly lucrative if you’re able to implement them correctly. Before paying for advertisements, understand where your target audience is online, e.g., on search platforms or social media, etc.
Hire an agency
I understand digital marketing can be a scary place for anyone that isn’t trained within the field. If this is you, many online agencies are willing to help.
As you can see from the above, there’s a lot to remember when selling food online. However, nothing is impossible, and if you’re able to implement the above successfully, you’ll be on your way to establishing yourself online as a food retailer.
So, what are you waiting for? Start pacing yourself through the above steps and begin developing your future.