4 Ways to Forecast Your Growth Properly

A common mistake we see amongst food suppliers looking to grow their businesses is inaccurately forecasting their costs and profits. Let’s end this today. Here are four ways to start accurately forecasting in your business:

Know your margins

This should be the first step in any business. Determine how much you need to break-even and how to make it a profit. Knowing these numbers will help you determine which sales channels you should target, what your quota should be, and when it’s the right time to offer other services such as delivery and discounts to your customers.

Set accurate delivery costs

Delivery can be a make or break it point in your business. Make sure you know exactly how much delivery costs per hour and how to calculate it accurately. If you’re guessing these costs, there is a high chance that you are losing money. To help you out, we created this post and a calculator that does this for you.

Determine your minimum order value

After you’ve determined your delivery costs, you have to set a minimum order value to offer delivery. You don’t want to lose money when offering a service to your customers – instead you should profit. This post outlines how to set this value along with a calculator. All you have to do is fill in the blanks!

The Power of Pricing

Pricing is an aspect of your business you should never neglect. Slight increasing in prices can have a great impact on your annual profits. For example, a price increase of 5% can increase profits by 6%! Do the math and figure out exactly how much you can increase your profits with slight price increases. Need help? Fill out the form below to get a copy of our Price Increase Calculator:

Get your numbers straight and start growing your business today! 

 

5 Tips for Getting More Customers Today

If you looking to expand your customer base, here are five tips for getting more customers:

Sell with Neighbours

If you only sell produce, that’s ok, but when trying to target new customers, creating more of a “one-stop-shop” for their local food needs will increase the likelihood that you get orders. Think of this as like your own online farmers market! Connect with other producers to set up co-selling and co-delivery with neighbours. This is a great way to share costs and increase sales. For more on how you can make this happen, here is an example of farmers in Northern Ontario who used Local Line to set this up.

Know Your Customers

The best way to get more customers is to know who you are selling to. One of the best ways we’ve seen suppliers increase their sales is selling and promoting at locations that play into a customer lifestyle. For example, many food suppliers live by the philosophy that food is linked to health and wellbeing, such as raising livestock in pastured conditions or using organic production methods. This philosophy resonates with their customer base – therefore selling at events or locations that are hubs for like-minded people will increase their likelihood for sale. Determine what type of customers need your products and understand their ways. Where do they shop? Where they do frequent? Determine this and meet them halfway. For example, we’ve had many pasture raised meat suppliers find success selling to independent gyms, crossfit and yoga studios.

Invest in Your Online Presence

Whether it’s investing time or money, it is essential to invest in your online presence. The future of local food is online. Being online has many benefits such as decreasing chance of lost orders, reaching more customers, and increasing the professionality of your business. Everyone is online, including your customers, therefore you should be too. If you have an online store and presence that is modern, easy to use and professional, not only will you see some immediate results, but you’ll thank yourself long term when your brand grows.

Create a Referral Program

This is a big one. Word of mouth is extremely important in the food industry. Your customer base is bound to have friends that would love your products too. You should be tapping into your existing customer network to generate new leads. So how do you ensure that customers will refer you to friends on your behalf? This post gives you 6 steps to creating your own referral program.

Referring a friend is a win-win for everyone. Your existing customer is rewarded for their loyalty by receiving a discounted price. Your new customer is learning about your business from the most trusted source of marketing: word of mouth. And, most importantly, your business just earned a new customer from an existing one!

Use a Variety of Marketing Platforms

In addition to using a referral program, use various different marketing platforms. Use social media to promote your brand and showcase your products. Instagram can be a great tool to show pictures of your farm, production and team for your customer base to get a sense of who is growing their food and what sets your production apart from the competition. Attend food shows and festivals to make connections within the industry and create relationships with chefs and retailers. Hang up promotional material at customer hotspots, such as gyms, farmers markets, local shops, etc. There are many different methods to promote your business. Using a variety will increase the likelihood the material reaches your audience.

What your customers want from their shopping experience!

Your customers are your business’ lifeline – therefore it’s your duty to give them what they want to ensure their loyalty. Getting to know who your customers are and what they want from their shopping experience is a recipe for success. So what do they want, and how are you going to give it to them?

After working with many food suppliers and their customer bases, here is what we found is important to many customers:

Customer reviews

As mentioned in various different articles, food is personal and word of mouth is a very, very powerful tool. People want to hear from others why they loved your products and why they picked you instead of another supplier. You have the power to give this information – provide customer reviews on your website, online store or social media platforms. In a study conducted by Bazaarvoice network, they found that review volume shows a positive correlation with increased orders – in other words, customer reviews work! In order to get this started, ask some of your customers if they would like to write a review for you.

Up to date and easy to use ordering software

Customers want an easy to use and modern online store to visit. Many food suppliers use out of date and cryptic ordering methods that it is harder on them and their customers. Give your customer base a uniform, beautiful online store that showcases your products and is simple to use! There is a higher chance of abandonment before purchase if your system is slow, ancient and/or confusing. Don’t let this be you.

Giving back to reliable customers

Customers want to be appreciated. Reward your customers that have bought from you for a long time. Offer discounts after they spend “x” dollars, free shipping if they purchase over a certain threshold, or store credit when referring a friend. All of these methods are a way to show those reliable customers that sticking with you was worth it!

Standing orders

A standing order in the food industry is an agreement or pre-purchase between supplier and customer to get a certain product every week or harvest over a season. Think of it like a subscription box with a farmer or food supplier, where on a recurring date you receive a package of fresh, local food to enjoy without having to think about placing a weekly order. This is a really nice option to have for customers, because it allows them to enjoy local food without having to take the hassle of continuously ordering. Additionally, standing orders can be really beneficial to you, because it ensures sales without having the stress of meeting a certain quota every week/month.

Deal with returned orders professionally

No business owner wants to deal with returned orders, however your customers want to know that if something does happen, there is a set return policy to resolve the situation. To get more information on how to set the best returned order practices, read this post.


Giving your customers what they want not only helps your customer base, but also helps your business.

Happy customers, happy business. 

Don’t leave your customers hanging – Standing Orders

As consumers, chefs and retailers, we love the idea of buying local because everyone knows that the local food industry supports community members, is grown by dedicated and hardworking individuals, and is often much better for us due to the use of holistic farming practices, but sometimes sourcing from the large industry seems a lot easier due to logistics and access. It’s simple –  it boils down to convenience.

At Local Line, we  make buying and selling local food easy and convenient. Our e-commerce platform provides a straightforward ordering mechanism for customers by offering services such as order and logistics management, customer communication and invoicing mechanisms for suppliers – all wrapped into one service. But we’re not done there!

This week we launched a new feature – standing orders.

A standing order is a purchase order covering a repeated delivery of goods in specified quantities, at specified prices, and according to a specified time schedule.  It is comparable to a subscription box where your customers can expect your products on the same time schedule. Standing orders are essential in food. Unlike buying clothes or other products, the relationship between food supplier and customer is continual. A standing order allows your customers to order once and continuously get your products week by week during a season.

Pre-booked sales for you, convenience for your customers.

Here are some additional benefits you can expect when you use our new standing order feature:

Save time on organizing orders

A great benefit of implementing standing orders is all that time you would save on managing your orders. If you’re a food supplier that offers a CSA program, weekly harvest box, or supply a restaurant or retailer with the same scheduled order, it’s hard to have to manage the same order every week. Standing orders allow you to automate the process and save time on tedious tasks such as order taking.

Produce to order

A standing order system allows you to pre-determine what needs to be produced. This allows you to predict what is needed and avoid under/over production. This reduces waste or lost customers due to insufficient inventory.

Create lasting relationships with customers

As mentioned previously, the relationship between buyer and supplier in the food industry is continual. Offering standing orders allow you to be able to create better partnerships with your customers and conveniently service them over a season.


Sound like something you could use? Try standing orders today with your Local Line membership for the low cost of $25/month. If you’re not yet using Local Line, click the button below to view a demo to see how Local Line can help your business.

How to set up the best online storefront

So you have an online store now!  Congrats and welcome to the world of selling online. Your online store is the first thing customers now see when purchasing from your business. Let’s make it great. Now that you have a storefront, it’s time to set it up to meet your needs. To help you get started, here are our best tips to get the best online storefront:

Catchy and consistent branding

The first step to setting up your online store is your branding. Your branding should match your product and business and should be easily identified in the market. Your online store is now the hub of your business therefore anything that you use here should be the same as what you use in marketing materials and social media. Check out this article for tips on branding.

Don’t neglect “About us”

This section of your online store allows you to tell your unique business story to current and future customers. Make it short and sweet, covering the philosophy behind your product and what sets it apart from the rest. Food is personal – so make sure to consider this when writing it. Include photographs of yourself, your team and your facilities. Always put a face to your brand – let your customers know who’s growing their food.

Photographs and more photographs!

In addition to the photographs in your About Us section, be sure to add high quality photos of your products. These photos are the only indication for new customers of what you sell and what they should expect when ordering. The more visual your product list is – the higher the chance that someone will order from you. Pictures tell a thousand words. Today, food photography has become an artform through Instagram. It’s all about the right lighting, good backgrounds and angles. This post will help you get those #instaworthy photos. Furthermore, add a banner and profile picture that will draw the eye and link with your business branding.

Think about your product names

After pictures, customers will be looking for your product titles. Be sure to keep them short and descriptive. Play into current food trends – for example if you grow organic produce, add organic in front of each product. This sounds more appealing and will help to drive sales. Same with terms such as Grass-Fed, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Artisan as customers are often looking for these buzzwords.

Easy URL

This one is simple, but can be forgotten! For your online store, be sure to use a URL that is relevant and catchy to your business. Don’t make it too long and always add the name of your business or a version of it. People should be easily able to remember it so that they can start typing it into their search bar themselves.

Don’t forget about logistics

Logistics and distribution is a huge factor for online stores. Be sure to have your delivery and pick up location schedule easily visible on your store – you don’t want your customers to have to search for it. The more logistics options you have, the better. However, this is entirely up to the capacity of your business. Remember – always update it if anything changes. The worst thing is when someone checks out and you no longer offer delivery to their area.

Take inspiration from success stories

If you’re feeling lost and don’t know where to start, take inspiration from others! Look at the leaders in your industry and see what’s working from them. If it works for them, why wouldn’t it work for you?


Having a great storefront isn’t a science. The main takeaway points is have a lot of visuals (the more the better) and add your personal touch. It shouldn’t look like you didn’t put a lot of thought into it. The appearance of your online store can be the make it or break it point in your business.

5 Ways to Increase Your Food Business’ Productivity Today

People that manage to get a lot done in one day aren’t superhuman – they just have the right set of tools and habits to help them out! Increasing your business’ productivity can make the difference between staying stagnant and growing. Set the right habits today by using these five Local Line tips:

1. Use one central hub

This is the starting point for increasing your business’ productivity. When having multiple locations where data is stored, you are increasing the likelihood for information to be lost or forgotten. It seems impossible to have to keep track of 10+ different spreadsheets or folders! Use one system to log orders, update customer information and manage finances to ensure that everything can be easily found, inputted and updated. This will save a lot of time trying to find where you last stored information.

2. Go paperless

Paper is unproductive. It can be easily lost or misplaced, and is prone to error. Online systems provide accountability, easy access and sense of security in case of a crashed system or failure. Further to this, an online system is made for you and works for you, instead of you working for it. Find a system that calculates, organizes and communicates for you – the system should allow you to save time to focus on other aspects of your business. It also looks and feels professional!

3. Sell online too!

Selling online through an e-commerce system helps you make sales without having to sell. Unlike selling at a farmer’s market, an online store allows you to showcase your products to customers without physically having to be in front of them. It lets your products speak for themselves! Selling face to face can take a lot of time, so combine it with an online store to double your sales.

4. Automate your customer communications

Individually sending emails to all of your customers with your inventory or business news can be extremely unproductive. Our tip to increase productivity and save time is to automate the process. Divide your customer list based on their needs (wholesale vs household) and send one email to the entire list. Don’t waste your time manually doing this! You can also schedule frequent or repeating emails to be sent on the same day every week or month! This will keep the communication flowing, without putting the strain on you.

5. Use an accounting service

Managing your finances can be time consuming and tedious. To be more productive use an accounting management system, such as QuickBooks. These systems allow you to input your expenses and profits and send and accept invoices directly to/from customers. It can save you hours. Furthermore, QuickBooks can be integrated into our software resulting in a seamless transition from a customer order to invoice.


Increasing your productivity doesn’t happen over night. Start using these steps today as a guide to work towards a more productive tomorrow.

How do I sell to retail?

In order to be successful when selling to retail, you have to consider that you are actually selling to two different channels: ‘the retailer or retail chain’ and ‘the consumers shopping at the retail location’. Here are some steps to consider when starting to sell:

Step 1: Set a reasonable price and Minimum Order Value (MOV)

The first thing to do when first looking to sell is setting your MOV. Your MOV is the minimum order value a retailer needs to order to offer delivery. This MOV needs to be reasonable for your business to ensure that you are making profit and for the retailer so that they will order from you.

It’s important to note: Selling to retail is unlike selling direct to customer as the retailers will only purchase at wholesale pricing. Due to this, the pricing and MOV must be adjusted in order to suit the larger order quantity.

Step 2: Get your products in order

After you have determined appropriate pricing, the next is working on your product and getting them in order. Depending on the type of products you are producing you should ensure:

Have all safety permits

This step is crucial. Do some research and make sure you have all the correct documentation so that you are able to sell your product in this environment. If you are unsure where to start, retailers deal with this every day, so reach out and ask!

Shelf life

Know the shelf life of your product. This is essential when considering the order frequency and distribution required to have a working relationship with a retailer.

Packaging

This step is important for increasing the probability of a consumer picking up your product in store. When designing and planning your packaging, remember that packaging should consider:

  • Product protection
  • Product safety
  • Product freshness
  • Brand identity

Step 3: Connect with the retailer

At this point you have considered the price and appearance of your product. It is now time to get your product into stores!

Set a meeting with a head buyer or manager

This is the first step to getting in with a retailer. Do research and find out who deals with buying in an organization. In a larger chain, often a buyer is hired and for smaller stores, the manager often does the buying. Each retailer is different so make sure you know who’s the best person to contact. Reach out and set up a meeting. Scheduling a specific time to meet shows respect and allows the buyer to give you all of their attention. Like selling to chefs, selling to retail is a relationship.

Prepare your presentation

Your presentation is extremely important. For some retailers, the meeting will take place in a boardroom with a powerpoint and others over coffee. Be sure to know what kind of meeting you will be having. When preparing your presentation, consider these points:

  • Product positioning in stores
  • Features and benefits of having your product in their stores
  • Your brand vs. competitors brand
  • Determining retailer action desired – what can you do for them in order to have an effective relationship.
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Market trends related to your product
  • How you will support the brand, and
  • What is the buyers’ reason to buy?

Pitch!

The final step is to pitch! Good luck!

Step 4: Build a customer following

You did all the work to get your product on the shelves of stores, however in order to stay there people need to buy! This is the second channel when selling retail. By building a proper customer following, you will guarantee sales when you first start selling in retail. Here are some tips:

Use your current customer base

Make it easy for yourself – start with those who already love you! When you first transition, let your current customers know where they now can get your product. This will drive initial sales – and give you a trusted customer base. If they love your product, they’re bound to come back.

Be a lifestyle advocate

Food is trendy. By advertising your product into certain trends, niches or lifestyles, it will likely drive sales as people want to join the craze too. Every product can fit into a trend if you spin it the right way. Do your research on what’s new and in and build your marketing around that.

In store promotions

This can be a great way to drive new customers to buy your product in sales. Work with your retail to see if you can offer discounts or have space in the new this month section of the store. Making your product visible and everywhere will convince people to buy it.


As a food producer, the best practices when selling to different channels vary based on who you are selling to. To get tips on selling direct to consumer, visit this post. For tips on selling to chefs, we got advice from Chef Aaron in this post.

How to beat the competition

Food can be fiercely competitive and is changing quickly. Everyone wants local, healthy and green. As a food producer, you want to stand out and differentiate your business from other options. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Start an online store

We can’t stress this enough! Think about this….imagine a farmers market, your farmers market that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Imagine a place where you can showcase all of your products all the time without having to be there. Selling your products online makes it easier for you your customers. Why? Because it allows you to be accessible to everyone, everywhere at anytime. It is a better place for marketing, communication, business management and customer service. Get ahead of the crowd and start an online store today.

Update your online personality ‘aka brand’

Personalize and update your online presence. This includes your online store, website, social media and any other places online customers can find you. Create a brand that is unique and reflects you and your business appropriately. When choosing branding make sure it is uniform on all platforms as this increases the likelihood of brand recognition and shows professionalism. Food is personal, so make sure your business reflects that.

Use technology

There are so many tools out there to help you run your business efficiently. The more efficient your business runs, the more time you have to focus on reaching new customers and servicing current ones. Local Line is one software that understands the food supply industry. With features such as e-commerce, inventory tracking, customer and order management, and logistics, it was created to do the admin work for you, so that you can focus on what you love, making food!  You can even integrate with QuickBooks, a great tool that helps you manage all of your accounting needs. Technology is created to help you – don’t be afraid to use it.

Logistics

Customers want easy. Starting with an online store, you are making it easy for them to see what all you produce and order it from the comfort of literally anywhere! Now, they want the products to get to them, fast. At a farmers market, a customer has to find you amongst all other producers, and hope you are selling what they’re looking for. Offering different logistics options, such as farm pick-up, pick-up locations and even delivery gives your customers variety to pick which option works best for them. Make sure this information can be found easily online and update it frequently.

Be a part of a lifestyle

Due to the fact that food is linked to lifestyle, it is important to be present where your possible customers would be. For example, if you produce organic, grass-fed meat, sell or put a pick-up location at your local gym – as this is where your customer base is located. It is amazing what exposure can do for your sales!

Be the best

This last tip is simple. Customer service is extremely important in the food industry. Be helpful, organized and understanding when working with your customers. Simple actions like checking in, having strategies for returned orders and being friendly at every interaction goes a long way.


Food can be very competitive. Strategies such as lowering prices and producing at extremely large abundances are not always effective. It can be hard to compete but experimenting with the tips above will help you stand out among the rest.

How do I get more out of my customers?

Now that you’ve got your customers and kept them, it’s time to get the most out of them! Here are our ways to help you make the most of the customer base you have:

Increase your Average Order Value (AOV)

A way of getting more out of your customers, is to increase the size of their orders or in other terms to increase your Average Order Value. An average order value (AOV) is the average order made by all of your current customers. By increasing your AOV, you are getting more from each order. Calculating your AOV is very simple. To do this take the sum of all of your current orders and divide it by the number of orders received.

In this example, here are the orders made by four different customers:

Jenny’s Bakery – $53

Andrew’s Grocery – $72

Bob Smith – $57

Andy McPherson – $81

To calculate the AOV of these orders, take the sum of all the orders:53 + 72 + 57 + 81 = $263 and then divide that value by four: $263/4 = $65.75.  Calculating this value can be cumbersome if your business has a lot of incoming orders. (Don’t worry, Local Line software has tools that do this for you!)

An AOV can be increased by many different methods. Here are some to get you started:

Inventory Lists

Many returning customers order the same thing on a weekly basis. They know what they like and that they can get it from you. In order to encourage these customers to step out of their comfort zone, be sure to send an updated inventory list frequently to remind customers of others products you source as well.

Order Discounting

This can be an impactful method for getting more from your current customers. Offer different discounting methods like orders over a certain threshold get free shipping. This gives a customer incentive to order a larger quantity to get the discount.

Price Increasing

If you increase your prices by slight increments, your AOV will automatically increase. You can play around with different values and see which works the best for your business and your customer base. To see how price increasing can increase your annual profit, fill out this form below to get your copy of our calculator:

Increase Product Sizing

To increase AOV, consider increasing the size of your products. For example, if you sell a weighted product, increasing this product by 0.5 lb per pack, causes the customer to order more product from you per purchase. Due to the larger size of the product, the price of the product increases, therefore increasing the AOV.


Getting customers can be a lot of work – so make sure you utilize the current customer base you have. For more tips on how to keep your current customer base, check out this blog post

Should I ship free samples to my customers?

In the food industry, free samples are everywhere. Whether it’s cold cuts at the deli or pieces of baked goods at a bakery, people don’t say no. 

In a study from 2010 that looked at 70 million households across the United States, 81% said they would try a product offered as a free sample. Everyone loves free.

However the question is, does offering free samples to customers actually increase my sales?

Offering free product, doesn’t seem like the best business strategy, however if done tactfully, it can benefit your sales.

“The average conversion rate for sampling efforts is 25-30%, meaning that a least a quarter of people who sampled a product, end up buying it”Perry Abbenante, vice president of marketing at Snack Factory.

The law of reciprocity

You know that feeling you have when taking a free sample? The feeling that you owe that person something? That is the law of reciprocity.

According to behavioural economist and psychologist, Dan Ariely from Duke University, the relationship between buyer and seller is a market norm and is based on costs and benefits, such as expenses and profits. Reciprocity is an expectation of the market norm – if something if being sold, something will be bought. Free samples break the cycle. Something is being given, but nothing is being purchased. The disruption of this interaction, leaves the consumer with the need to return the favor – in this case, purchasing from you.

I do something for you, you do something for me.

This psychology can be implemented for every type of food product. Whether that’s a sample of a type of produce, snack food or meat product – it all falls under the same principle. Offering free samples works!  

Did you know?

For Costco, a fore leader in samples, when offering free samples, they saw:

  • 71% increase in beer sales
  • 300% increase in wine sales
  • 500% increase in frozen pizza sales with all purchases post sample
  • And packaged cheese doubling in sales

Obviously, Costco is different than an local food business, however the results are the same. Free samples can be a powerful tool, however it must be feasible for your business. Sending full products and covering shipping costs is not always an option, so here are some tips!

Ideas for free samples that won’t break the bank

  • Add free samples with purchase

Shipping is already paid for and you are making a profit off of the order. Adding a sample of a new or favourite product to an order shows great customer service and lets a customer try something new.

  • Set out free samples at pickup locations

When customers are picking up their orders at select pick up locations, go old school. Dependent on your product, lay out samples and let customers try a favourite or something new. No shipping or packaging costs for samples. Hopefully it will encourage a customer to buy something new next order.

  • Offer free shipping

Instead of sending a free sample, offer customers discounts on large orders or first orders such as free shipping to encourage purchase without costing you. Creating trusting relationships between customer and producer increases likelihood of repurchase.

  • Free samples to larger customers

When looking to sell to larger customers like restaurants, consider offering free samples. Often chefs want to try a product before committing to adding to the menu – however show up with your sample. Sit down, talk about your product and have a discussion with the chef. This will increase the likelihood that they will remember you and your product. For more tips on selling to chefs, check out this post.