If your food business cannot keep up with demand, or you are looking to expand while increasing efficiency, opting to utilize a food co-packer may be your next step. Many manufacturers (from startups to multinational chains) use food co-packers as a way to enhance production capabilities, increase efficiency, and decrease costs. Choosing to use a food co-packer also allows businesses to increase production at peak times, without the need for investments in equipment or other capital expenses.

Before you jump into a partnership with a co-packer, it’s important to understand that while the benefits are numerous, there may be some drawbacks if you don’t find the right fit. Here are some tips for working with a food co-packer, and finding the right fit for your food business.

Know What You Want from A Food Co-Packer

Start by understanding your need for a co-packer. Has your food business outgrown in-house operations? This is where you need to decide whether it makes sense for your business to invest in a larger production facility and equipment, or outsource to a food co-packer.

Once you’ve made the decision to work with a co-packer, decide what you want from them. Many co-packers will do more than just package your products – they may be capable of transporting your products to other locations, or work with other vendors to streamline the supply chain process. This allows you to work closely with one partner, while several are working behind the scenes to get your goods where they need to go.

In some cases, your food co-packer can even function as an extension of your business, taking on additional responsibilities in the packaging supply chain. Decide how closely you want your food co-packer to function with your business, and keep that in mind when searching for a good fit.

Choosing a Partner

Food co-packers can vary in product specialties, equipment, certifications, minimum volumes, and location. Begin by researching local co-packers and their minimum volume requirements. It’s also critical that you confirm that they have the equipment required to meet your packaging needs.

Before you approach a potential co-packer, make sure you have a clear picture of what you want from the business relationship, a timeline and projection of production needs, and finalized recipes and ingredients. Open communication is necessary to make sure both parties understand how the co-packing relationship will work, and that you won’t be asking for services that they can’t provide down the road.

Once you’ve found a good fit logistically, make sure their business culture, procedures, and integrity aligns with yours. If something doesn’t seem right, follow your gut. Your food co-packer will be packaging the product you’ve worked so hard on, and they’ll be responsible for maintaining the integrity and quality of it. We recommend asking for references from satisfied clients, which will offer you outside perspective on working with a particular co-packer.

Looking Toward the Future

Once you have operations with your co-packer up and running, it’s important to keep lines of communication open. While it is your responsibility to provide direction and requirements for the packaging of your products, your food co-packer should also provide feedback, and offer suggestions for increased efficiency as they see those opportunities arise.

Assuming you’ve chosen an experienced and reputable co-packer, they should have the expertise, staff, and resources available to streamline production. This also means that if and when issues arise, they will have the ability to proactively work toward a solution.

Choosing to work with a co-packer can save you valuable time, but it’s important to find the right fit for your food business’ needs.