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Saturday, 18 April 2015

How to start a pickle business?

My mom makes very good kadumanga (a tender mango pickle based in mustard). She is a splendid cook and enjoys making pickles to all in the family, The good feedback that we all give her takes her to cloud nine.

But I have always felt that I should put this talent of hers to some business so that she can have her own money. And I have started with the ground work of setting up a pickle business in my home town in Kerala.

I had raised this as a query in Quora but got a very feeble response. But with whatever information I have now, I just started with it. I, myself found very little information on starting a pickle business on web. Hence thought of sharing on how I am doing this, so that it will help people who are thinking in the same lines :-).

How I started my 'KaduManga' pickle business?

For me, I know my mom's pickles are the best and all my cousins and friends agree to the same. She makes it with lots of love that you will love it to the core. The use of right ingredients and the timely mixing keeps the flavour superb and gives it a longer shelf life. And in Malayalam, we say it is more because of her 'kaipunnyam' - which means the in born talent that turns it best.

We have started with the kadu manga (baby mango based in mustard) as the first pickle product. And we have the age-old recipe in hand and also the infrastructure too. My entire family is of around 40 people and so there is enough to start something in small scale.

The main raw material for this particular pickle is tender mango, which is easily available in our ancestral home compound itself. The only trick in getting them is - we need to be there at the right time to pluck it as and when it is ready. A particular type of mango, which is full of strong pungent flavour is used to make this pickle. Not all tender mangoes will give the perfect taste. My mom is very particular about it.

The other raw materials include red chillies, rock salt, gingely oil and mustard. This is something which is easily available in the local market. Of course the type of chillies, the salt brand, quality of mustard and gingelly oil also matter a lot in the taste. Now it is the time to get started, just go for the right ratio as in the recipe and wait for it to set. Once it is done, pack it and sell :-).

Is that all?

Well, this is the nutshell or the basics. When the reality of making it a business came in, I found that more needs to be done. To understand how exactly a pickle business operates, I visited an already existing pickle unit nearby. And I got to know a lot of things from there. Sharing it here to help you guys to start your pickle business more systematically.

How to start a pickle business?

Once you have the idea on venturing onto a pickle business, the first thing that you can do is to check out already existing pickle business units. If they are very strict with their factory hygeine, they will not let you in. But I am sure you can catch something from there that can get things rolling. So do a recce for the factories in your locality.

As mentioned earlier, I got a chance to visit a moderate pickle manufacturing unit (called SuperNova) in Manjeri, my home town. They did not let me in. But they were ready to answer my queries. I had a basic doubt of how to get it started?

With that conversation I got the following learnings on how to start off:

Step 1:

For a good pickle business I need a Superb Recipe : Recipe is the first of all. Offering good quality lip smacking tasty pickle can build a basic customer base for you. Get started if you have that good recipe. It could be your grandma's recipe or a new one that came out well during your trials.

Step 2:

Infrastructure has to be ready: It is all about making pickle for a thousand people atleast. Pickle business needs good amount of space and utensils as well. Things like Bharani, or big pickle jars is the first thing that you will need. And a good hygienic storage area too.

Step 3:

Hire Employees: Doing a business is all about leveraging. So hire people to do the real work while you can oversee their activities. I realised that the pickle business owner is not actually making the pickle, but he is the one who setsup everything and makes good profit.

Step 4:

Go for Best quality Fresh Raw Materials: The raw materials can be bought in bulk from regular wholesalers. They will give you high quality mango, lemon, vegetables, chilly and all other raw materials used in making pickles. You can opt for cold pressed oils or virgin oils for premiumness of pickles.

Step 4:

Arrange for good Capital: Before you start earning you should have a decent amount to start the production. This could be in the range of a few thousands to one lakh rupees, for a small scale pickle business. If you don't have cash, you can go for a SME loan or gold loan for the initial capital.

Step 5:

Hygiene is a must: Every food factory needs a good amount of hygiene practices. Make sure that the employees come clean and tidy. Cover the heads and also nose. Also wear gloves.

Step 6:

Go for leak proof packaging: Pickle is a messy stuff if not handled properly. Do take a lot of care while packing them. Go for leak proof packaging ideas like plastic containers or pouches. Ensure that the containers are clean and dry before you pack them.

Step 7:

Do the pricing: Calculate the total overhead cost and set the pricing per kg that gives you a handsome profit as well.

Step 8:

Get FSSAI License: All food products in India requires Food Safety license - FSSAI. Honeslty, I am yet to apply for it. So will update you more about this once I complete the process.

Well, this is the process that will give you high quality pickle. But how to tell people that you have started selling pickles? That is what marketing all about.

How to market your pickles?

Word of mouth is the best marketing strategy ever. When I am in a shopping store seeing different pickle displayed I often get confused on which one to choose. But if I find some item or brand that my friend or relative has recommended I will buy it with eyes shut.

To make it effective with your pickle business, you can start off with sampling. Give small sample or sachet pickles to every foodie you come across. You can talk to the restaurant owner and think of sampling in their meals. You can try giving off a few to the kirana stores as well. Just try what all ways you could to launch it to as many people as possible.

If there is any sale or exhibition in your area, grab a stall for your pickle. Get good feedback from all these people and work on improvisations if possible.

Going forward you can think of putting advertisements on magazines or weeklies.

Start a Facebook page and share it with your friends. Ask them for a support on buying a few samples and get honest feedback.

Well, my pickle business is completely online and I would be sharing the link here soon. Will update the post regarding how I am working on it.