Local farmers markets have become more than a quick stop for fresh foods: They are community events that welcome residents and encourage them to linger. This presents a greater opportunity for the sale of value-added products, especially ready-to-drink juices made from the high-quality local produce that shoppers know and love.
As the popularity of fresh juices grows, so does the potential for farmers to profit from the trend. Many are going beyond marketing their fruits and vegetables for at-home juicing and have stepped into the role of juicer themselves. While juicing might seem simple, there are many things you need to know before entering into this potentially profitable market. Do your research first, and you will improve your ability to craft a product your customers can’t resist.
1. Local Laws and Guidelines
For most states, juices fall under the category of processed or value-added foods. As a result, selling juices will require the necessary permits as set forth by your state and health department. Start by talking with your farmers market manager and your cooperative extension agent.
If you wish to make the juice on site, a temporary food establishment permit may be required. If you plan to bring your packaged juice to market, it will likely need to be produced in a certified commercial kitchen unless you’re operating under your state’s cottage food law. If your juice is not pasteurized, you may also need specific labeling to inform shoppers. Some states still don’t allow the sale of raw juice. The rules of each state vary, so be sure you investigate the issue thoroughly, meet all requirements, and obtain the necessary permits to sell your juice.
2. Local Demand
Before taking steps to apply for permits or set up your juicing process, identify market demand and potential customers. This can be as simple as engaging with shoppers and learning more about their preferences and buying practices. Your market manager may also have data and statistics based on surveys conducted at your local market.
You’ll want to determine how customers plan to purchase juice. Will they purchase juice to drink while at the market or are customers looking for multiple bottles to take home? Understanding how your juice will be consumed will help you determine the right volume, as well as the type of packaging, such as glass bottles to be returned or recyclable plastic. Use all of the information you gather to create your production and marketing strategy.
3. Favorite Flavor Combos
A variety of fruits and vegetables are good candidates for juice, and it’s possible that you can introduce new options that your consumers hadn’t previously considered. While there is still a demand for all-fruit juices, vegetable-based and green juices are the varieties that draw health-conscious customers.
Start with vegetables that create a high volume of juice, like cucumbers, celery and carrots. Greens often don’t yield a high volume, but their popularity makes them an essential ingredient. Try kale, spinach or chard. Herbs like parsley or cilantro give juices a distinctive flavor.
A palatable juice is a balanced juice. Greens alone can be bitter and some herbs can overpower the drink. Adding an ingredient with a little sweetness balances an overbearing flavor. The addition of a carrot, orange, apple, pear or melon can help you create a winning combination.
4. Price Point and Upfront Costs
A bottle of juice requires a lot of produce. One serving can contain one to two whole cucumbers and whole fruits, three or four stalks of celery, and a couple cups of greens. You will need to have an accurate knowledge of your investment to prevent losing money on your juice sales.
Evaluating your cost of production plus your cost of delivery to market allows you to set a price for profit, ensuring that you recover your costs. You will need to know your dollar investment whether you’re growing the fruits and vegetables or buying them from another producer.
Glass bottles with a refundable deposit are often used for farmers market beverages, but plastic can also be an option. The type of packing you need to invest in may be governed by local regulations. Other investments you will have are permit fees, vendor fees, printing and labels, juicing equipment, labor, and facility rental fees, if you need a commercial kitchen.
5. How to Stand Out
Depending on your location, your juice may fulfill a demand for consumers, or you may be presenting a product that is relatively new to many people. Either way, get creative in finding ways to make your juice more marketable. Then determine what level of the demand remains unfulfilled and create a strategy that will allow you to fill that void.
What is the top priority for your customers when they want to drink juice? Will your niche be your creative flavors? Consider introducing new combinations by adding an uncommon but delicious ingredient. Fennel, purple carrots, arugula, lettuces and lemon verbena are seen less often in juices and can give you a more original product to market. Maybe you plan to use only Certified Organic produce. Perhaps you will sell juice at the market, but you also have bigger plans to create a CSA-like distribution for home delivery. If you sell other products at the market, such as baked goods or prepared foods, sell your juices as a packaged breakfast to be enjoyed on-site or for busy mornings later in the week.
There’s no better time to target juice-loving consumers, and your take on making this product new and innovative may be just what these customers are looking for. Selling fresh juices will allow you to better serve their needs while also increasing your farmers market revenue.