HOW TO FIND & KEEP
A difficult aspect for many small food business
owners is finding customers: they think that a good
product sells itself and they focus their attention
on making good quality foods that can compete
with those that are already on the market.
However, even a high quality product that many
people would like to buy is not sufficient; it is also
necessary to actively go out from the business and
find customers or buyers. Note: a distinction is
made between customers who buy a food and the
consumers, the people who eat it, as these are not
necessarily the same people.
There are many different types of customers who
buy foods from small-scale processors: they
include retailers; food service outlets (restaurants,
cafés, hotels, takeaways); wholesalers; or
purchasing officers in companies or government
departments (Table 1). These people are referred
to here as ‘buyers’ to distinguish them from
individual domestic customers.
It is necessary to find enough buyers who will
continue to buy products in sufficient amounts
and at a price that will make a business
profitable. To do this, processors must first know
their market in as much detail as possible. For
Figure 1: Mr. Amir Munsi from
Vatpiary, Bangladesh selling his crops.
Photo: Zul Mukhida / Practical Action.
example, they should:
Know who are the important buyers and ‘middlemen’ and how do they operate. Which
consumers do the buyers supply? What is the level of demand for a product and how is it
changing? What is the total value of the market sector and how is it likely to change?
Assess different market segments (Table 1) and identify which segments they wish to
Know the strengths and weaknesses of competitors.
It is only by knowing the market that a processor can identify the type of potential buyers and
consumers that best suit the operation of the business.
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