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< prev - next > Food processing how to find and keep customers (Printable PDF)
How to find and keep customers
Practical Action
regular, good sized orders and often collect foods from the processor’s premises. Depending on
whom they supply, wholesale agents may also buy processed foods in bulk containers, which
reduces transport and packaging costs and requires less effort by processors to find retail and
food service buyers or to distribute foods. However, wholesale agents incur their own costs and
need to make a profit, and they therefore offer lower prices than most other buyers, resulting
in a lower profit margin for processors.
Institutional and industrial buyers
Many institutional markets, particularly in more advanced economies, are not suitable for
small-scale processors because buying is centrally organised by government ministries and the
volumes of food required are too large. However, where buying decisions are decentralised or
within the control of a local authority, there may be opportunities to supply processed foods as
ingredients for institutional meals in schools, local hospitals or military barracks. Similar
considerations apply to food companies who buy processed ingredients for their products (e.g.
jams, dried fruit and dairy cream for bakeries). Large food companies may require bulk orders
that small-scale processors cannot meet, but smaller companies may prefer to buy from local
A note on export markets
As a general rule, it is preferable for small-scale processors to successfully supply local or
national markets before attempting to export foods. This is because the quality standards
required by importers may be more stringent than local markets require; there may be
minimum order sizes that are too large for small-scale producers; and the complexities of
export procedures are often time consuming and expensive. An exception is the supply of
foods to ‘fair trade’ companies and organisations. These aim to build trading partnerships that
seek greater equity in international trade and work with groups of producers to improve local
community facilities. Typically, the products that are of interest include dried fruits, nuts,
chocolate, coffee, honey, cocoa, tea, shea butter, essences and spices. Contact details for fair
trade organisations are given in further information below.
Define the aims of the research
Prepare a research plan, including how data
will be gathered and analysed, i.e.:
Decide the information that
is needed
Decide how and where to
get the information
Decide the type of survey
method to be used
Market research
Secondary data sources
Analyse the results and
implement the findings
Figure 3: General procedure for conducting market research (Adapted from Fellows and Axtell,