Choosing a contract manufacturer who is a good fit for your brand and product is one of the biggest decisions that beverage entrepreneurs have to make. Today, many contract manufacturers (called “co-mans”) have the luxury of being highly selective of the products they run and the companies they work with.
One way to set yourself up for business success is by approaching manufacturers with a finished product. But how do you know if you’re ready to start working with a beverage manufacturer? Ask yourself these five questions before you start reaching out.
What ingredients am I using, and does my formulation scale?
While your idea may have started in your kitchen with store-bought ingredients and home chef measuring cups, this will not work when you are making thousands of pounds of beverage product at a contract manufacturer.
Before you approach a manufacturer, you need to make sure you are sourcing ingredients from reputable industrial suppliers. Your formulation also needs to be in a scalable format to ensure the batch size can be changed according to your production needs.
Do I have proof of feasibility?
The processes that work in your home oven may not work with industrial processes required to ensure both safety and quality. Before you contact a beverage manufacturer, it’s important to go through a scale up process and present prototypes and that have been properly formulated and processed.
To show feasibility, you’ll need to provide processes used during scale up, along with other analytical data relevant to your product’s safety and quality parameters.
Do I know what certification I want to achieve?
Achieving certifications for your product such as non-GMO verified or USDA organic will require cooperation of your manufacturer and your ingredient suppliers. It will be important to know what certifications you intend to pursue prior to your beverage manufacturer search, as not all companies will be able to achieve certain certifications.
Do I have a volume estimate for the first year?
All manufacturers will have a minimum run size, which is why it’s important to estimate how much you’ll need in the first six months to one year. Some co-mans have very large minimums, while others are considerably smaller.
In order to properly select a manufacturer, you need to have some idea of what your volume will be. If one run at a manufacturer will yield enough product for an entire year, that minimum is probably too large.
Do I know what types of packages will work for my product?
If you have specific packaging in mind, you can ideally find a beverage manufacturer that is prepared to produce it. The reality is that you may have to compromise on your package design based on the manufacturer’s capabilities.
In addition, the package you envisioned may not properly protect your product or be compatible with the process your product must undergo to ensure safety. Having a realistic expectation for your package design will greatly help in your manufacturer search.
Did you answer “no,” or feel a little unsure about your answers to any of these questions? Don’t fret – it takes a lot of work to get your idea from your head to the assembly line.