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Finding the right suppliers and co-manufacturers for your food & beverage brand is make or break. Whether it’s to move into large-scale production, create new products, or obtain additional certifications, you will likely work with a co-man sometime during your CPG journey. But the task of finding the right fit can be challenging. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to working with co-packers and suppliers. It may take trial and error to find what works best for you (which ain't cheap!), so it is best to get this squared away early on in your journey.

If you want your business to grow, these partners need to have the ability to grow with you by producing or supplying more products at scale. 

So, what are some helpful tips to rock your co-packer/supplier relationship? Read on to find out.*

*content written in partnership with Foodboro Marketplace Member Fiddle.io

1 – Align with the management team directly as often as possible. 

Speak to them leader to leader. Your success is their success and vice-a-versa. 

Become actual friends with them. Talk to them about other aspects of life and business. Text them just to see how they’re doing. Drop by and say hello when you’re in the area. Send them a Starbucks gift card or door-dash some pizza for their team. 

The key is to have a real relationship with them so that when problems arise or things become difficult, you have a foundation to work from. Besides, business is way more fun when you’re working with friends!

2 – Find a co-packer that does what they say they’ll do. 

This is crucial for any partner in your business or employee on your team. Especially the co-packers and suppliers who are fundamental to your production process. 

This all comes down to honesty and trust. If they say they’ll produce an order by a certain date, do they actually do it? 

If they give you one price up front, do they stick to it? When they make mistakes, do they own up to and correct them?

This goes for you as the brand as well. Do you send them ingredients and materials to produce on time? Are you holding up your end of the agreement? 

3 – Don’t be afraid to do a test run. 

Especially if it’s your first time working with a co-packer. This is particularly important as you scale from producing products on your own to working with a co-packer. 

Sometimes, the recipe doesn’t scale directly like you think it will. You might need custom machinery, equipment, or something else to get the consistent product quality you want. 

No better way to work out the kinks and really know if you’re a good fit for each other than to test things out. 

4 – Work with someone local or in a neighboring state. 

This one might not always be possible depending on your situation but it can be a real difference-maker.

It makes everything we’ve talked about so far a lot easier. 

How much easier is it to build a relationship when you can stop by and say hello in person or meet up for lunch? 

If you’re new to a co-packer and want to be physically present during the manufacturing process to start out, it’s easier when they’re close by. 

Plus, it’s a nice feeling for local businesses to support each other!

5 – Have backup suppliers and co-packers. 

If you have only one co-packer to work with, what happens when they can’t fulfill your order? 

  • One supplier but they run out of the key ingredient you need to make your product? 
  • One product to sell and that product runs out? 
  • One traffic source to your website that stops producing results?

These are problems that can be avoided by having backup co-packers and suppliers. Even if you don’t work with them on a regular basis, knowing they can pinch hit when you’re in a bind might just save your business!

6 – Don’t just go with the first co-packer you find. 

Treat it like you would if you were hiring someone to paint your house. Reach out to multiple companies, get quotes, and look at online reviews. 

Do your due diligence to make sure it’s the right fit for you. It also helps with the whole “problem of 1” thing we talked about earlier. When you get multiple quotes, you’ll have backups to work with when you need to. 

Of course, getting pricing and information from multiple businesses ultimately helps you to be more confident in your decision. If you only get one quote, how will you know if it’s a good or bad price? 

7 – Get a referral from someone you trust. 

This one seems pretty obvious but it’s still worth pointing out. The CPG community is full of people that want to help each other succeed. 

Take advantage of that and ask for referrals. Start with the brands you know who have similar but not competing products. Ask what they liked or dislike about working with their copacker. 

Even if you don’t go with the same one, it’s helpful information to have and will help you decide who’s best for you. 

GET FOODBORO'S CO-PACKER LIST

💰 COMING SOON: Foodboro Pitch Day!

We frequently get requests from makers who are looking to grow their business with funding from outside sources. We are lucky to have a number of experienced investors within our network, and are planning to host our first-ever Pitch Day* for Foodboro members to connect with the right investment partner. If this is something you would be interested in as we bring this concept to life, shoot us an email!
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🔦 Startup Spotlight

HUMBLE NUT BUTTER: This Minneapolis-based nut butter brand was founded by husband-wife duo John and Jessica Waller. A unique line of nut butters are inspired by savory favorites, with complex layers of flavor to snack on and cook with is currently available in three delicious flavors: Truffle Herb Walnut (try it on a grilled burger!), Sundried Basil Cashew (try on toast with eggs!) and Turmeric Maple Pecan (spread on waffles or top your oatmeal for a warm spice). Check 'em out HERE.

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