The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Selling your homemade bread

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mrosen814's picture
mrosen814

Selling your homemade bread

Hi all,


I was wondering if any home bakers here have had success selling their breads from their home kitchen.  Were you able to sell to more than friends and family?  Farmer's market?  Anywhere else?  Your trials and errors would be much appreciated!


Thanks,


Mike

Floydm's picture
Floydm

There are a number of members here, such as verminiusrex, who sell baked goods prepared in their own homes (in his case, primarily at the farmer's market).  The health regulations required to do so legally vary wildly from state-to-state though and are usually to largest hurdle aspiring bakers face (they certainly are where I am in Oregon), so my recommendation is that you look into that first.  If you do so and find that it is feasible in your location, I'm sure folks will share their insights into the economics and equipment needed to bake on a semi-professional basis.


Good luck!

bassopotamus's picture
bassopotamus

My wife and I do a farmer's market.


 


As Floyd said, laws are all over the place. Here, the farmer's market is the only exemption to fairly stringent requirements (must come from a commercial kitchen, and that has to be a kitchen other than your main home kitchen...)


 


We've been reasonably successful, but I have mixed feelings about the whole endeavor. At some point, it largely stops being fun and starts being another job.


 


One thing that was an unpleasant surprise for us was how much equipment we needed to do even modest baking (we do 70-80 loaves a week). The downside of that is that it takes a fair amount of time to pay that back. You may have some of the stuff already, but it is easier and faster to have multiples of things.


 


Also, to make it work, it is important to find ways to source ingredients at reasonable prices. We found that the local restaurant supply cut our flour price about in half. Some breads, we have dropped because they were too expensive fpr the ingredients or too much trouble to make (we were doing a Kalamata olive bread, but even at bulk pricing, the olives were expensive, and it was a pain to work with).


The two big home baking obstacles are the mixer and oven space. We are currently baking with one oven, and pondering a second or even a double oven. Probably sticking a second range in the basement would be the least trouble. The mixer is where we are kind of lost. We have a kitchen aid 600 and it is really not up do making bigger batches of dough. We upgraded to a DLX, which I don't like either, and frankly is indadequate for the volume we are doing (it doesn't hold anywhere near what it says it does, so we are mixing about 2x as many batches as I'd like). Unfortunately, the next step up in mixers is fairly spendy. We do mostly low knead doughs, whcih helps with the mixing, but it is still a drag.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

When I was doing the farmers market thing, I'd make up to 440 loaves in 2 days by myself.  My wife helped me measure, and then left the bakery.  I'd go from there.  In the morning, she'd go to market and I'd do the next day's bake.


 


When I was renting a kitchen, the 30qt mixer died.  I asked for advice from bakers in the Bread Baker's Guild of America and was told, "If I was only making 200 loaves a day, I wouldn't bother with a mixer!"


 


The stretch and fold technique works very well.  http://www.sourdoughhome.com/stretchandfold.html covers the basics.  At the bottom of the page is a link to a page of me getting ready for a farmers market.


The trick to doing the farmers market thing and not killing yourself is mastering the art of the cat nap.


Good luck,


Mike


 

Big Brick House Bakery's picture
Big Brick House...

Also you have to know the size of your farmers market, how many people it draws, and is there anyone else offering the same items, and how do they price it.  I am at a very small market in a very small town, I make about 2 doz loaves of bread, and the 2 loaves that are normally left over, my family eats thru the week, but I had to stop making what another vendor offered, she was half the price I was...


again research location, wholesale cost, your labor, your kitchen size, and the laws in your area.  If it isn't legal, you could be slapped with a $10,000 fine like in our area.  It is illegal to sell out of your home, but ok only at the farmers market, oh... and no festivals.

CanuckJim's picture
CanuckJim

Mike,


I hear the voice of hard won experience in these replies.  I tried, too, the FM route for several years, but it's very tough to make ends meet, because, as you know, true artisan breads are time consuming to make, the ingredients are expensive and there can be price resistance, depending on the demographics in your area.  At one I attended, directly across from me was a lady selling so-called "Twelve- Grain Artisan Bread" for $2.99 a loaf.  I knew quite well that these so called artisan loaves were made from a mix that comes in a 40 kilo bag sold by a baking trade warehouse (just add water).  However, the public did not perceive it that way and rather shied away from my $8 1 kilo sourdough olive boule that took two days to make and were baked in a wood fired oven.  The exception was the fairly large number of Europeans, mainly French and Italian, who attended; they did not blink at my prices and wouldn't deign to go for the phoney Twelve Grain.  Still, it ended up not being worthwhile as a way to make a living.


Inspectors are another matter, especially when you're using your home kitchen.  I got out from under some very silly regulations by pointing out that I did not use raw meats of any kind, just cheeses at times, and the loaves were baked to an internal temp of between 190 and 210 F.  These regs do vary widely, and they were definitely not written for artisan bakers.  It is one supreme drag, dealing with hidebound bureaucrats who simply don't like dealing with exceptions of any kind.  There's no way out, usually.  I just kept jumping from municipality to municipality until I found one that was somewhat accommodating.


Far as mixers go, I have a real problem with KAs of any stripe, unless they're more than twenty years old.  Mixing bagel dough will kill them quick.  I know, I've done it.  All the hype and designer colors don't make for a good bread dough mixer.


I've had an Esmach SP5 spiral mixer for five years.  Got it from the SanFranciso Baking Institute.  Sure, it's more expensive than most, but it's also a purpose designed horse that really, really works.  Although the manual says it will handle eight pounds of flour (that's flour, not hydrated dough), I usually keep it to betweeen six or seven pounds to cut down on the mess until the flour is hydrated.  Still, I can make enough dough for twenty-four 210 gr pizza balls at a shot.  Try that with a KA.  If you're serious, you need something like this.  I'm not fond of Hobarts, either.  Like the smaller KA orbitals, they simply generate too much friction and are prone to overheating the dough before it's properly kneaded in the machine.


Bread for thought, I guess.


CJ

loafgirl's picture
loafgirl

What about supplying bread to local restaurants?  Any thoughts?  What about pricing?

CanuckJim's picture
CanuckJim

Loafgirl,


I've certainly sold to restaurants and caterers (pain de mie, in particular, for canapes), but you have to choose ones that deliberately are on the high ground.  If they're willing to work with you on marketing: wood fired, genuine artisan, best ingredients, etc.  Then you might be able to make a go on what are otherwise rather dismal margin figures, and that does not account for labor.


Pricing is a difficult call and depends on your market demographics.  Still, if you charge, say, $8 for a kilo sourdough olive boule, how many very pretty, high end sandwiches would that make?


How about doing real Kaisers?  Easy to make in bulk.  I call mine "ketchup proof," because they don't break down and get squishy no matter what you put on them.  I use Reinhart's formula, BBA.  Check out what the local supermarket charges for their so-called kaisers and double it at least.


Any help?


CJ

loafgirl's picture
loafgirl

CJ,


Here is the deal...We are in a very small town in Ohio and the restaurant is a trendy little Organic coffee shop, that offers some lunch items (paninis, salads, occasional daily specials like sliders).  They do wine tastings about once a month where they have small food pairings to go with the wine. It all changes daily depending on what she feels like!  Aside from the sourdough for paninis and the slider rolls, she has also offered to sell other breads I make at her counter which is cool.  And then if there is some sort of event or holiday where she might be looking for a more specialty item I can do it.


It recently opened early this summer, but business hasn't caught on just yet so I really don't have much to go on as of right now.  I know that the Organic aspect of all of this is $$, and it's just me out of my home with a 9-5 job too!  The only grocery in town is a Kroger, so I guess I can start there with some of their breads to get an idea??? 


p.s. I just found out today that King Arthur now offers a wholesale program as of July 2009 and the discounts will be helpful for my Organic ingredients.


Thanks for your reply!


Loafgirl

CanuckJim's picture
CanuckJim

Loafgirl,


Why not try out the restaurant on an organic pain de mie.  Market it as just that, plus hand made, best ingredients, artisan methods. It would make really fine open faced canapes for a wine tasting.  Very close crumb, can be sliced very thinly, almost no crust, the small amount can be trimmed off.  Maybe that's a start.  The pans can be expensive, but a bit of research on souces should get you there.  The standard pans make a 3 lb loaf with no waste.  That's a lot of canapes. There are larger ones, 5 lbs, but that's another story.  I've been using the same recipe for years, and it's very predictable, both bread flour and whole wheat.  Send me an email, and I'll shoot them to you.


I'm aware of Kroger.  Have a look at what they sell, for how much, but make sure to stake out the high ground.  Don't even try to compete with them, but at least you'll have some benchmarks.


CJ

flourgirl51's picture
flourgirl51

You have to check the regulations in your state as they vary greatly from state to state. Our farmers' market was inspected recently. Labeling seems to be a key point as you have to list ingredients and contact information on each item. The laws are strange and don't make much sense as I can sell oodles of breads at the farmers' market without a commercial kitchen but a neighbor can't stop by and by a loaf from my home.

turosdolci's picture
turosdolci

We started a biscotti business at home. It is really important that you get your health permit and State licenses before you start selling anything. Also look into insurance. If you keep inventory in your home you have to be insured. The type of insurance depends on the quantity and materials you inventory. You may be able to get away with an addendum to you home insurance policy but most companies won't work with you unless you have all of these things. We sell mostly to caterers, (check them out as  a possible sales channel) but we also have our own customers.


Getting ingredients at reasonable prices requires a lot of research and you have to keep up with it. I actually buy my packaging directly from a small packaging manufacturer here in the Italian part of Switzerland (I live here, but my sister runs the production and sales in the US and I do the administration). Even with shipping it is cheaper then buying wholesale from restaurant supply stores. I also buy lot of thing on sale such as ribbons after the holidays are over, the supply companies sell them at a discount. So right after Valentines day I buy a lot of red ribbons, we package our biscotti in typical Italian packaging. We also work with our caterers by using their containers to deliver our biscotti. This allows us to recycle packaging with them and saves money. You have to be very creative on how you buy because you are not able to buy in large volumes as a home baker when you get started. If you need services such as some web site work etc. see if you can barter with other business. Bartering is a great way to save money and lots of small business do this. Tie down your costs including labor, I find a lot of people who start out short change themselves here. Remember if you are doing this as a business then it is no longer a hobby and you have to make a profit.  Keep good records!  Good Luck