How to bottle and distribute a yummy drink?
June 2, 2005 11:15 AM   Subscribe

A friend of mine has a tasty drink which he sells from his store (a little tourist shop). Folks love it and keep asking him to bottle it and sell it online, but he has no idea where to get started.

Here's specifically what he's trying to find out:

- Are there particular legal restrictions on sending beverages through the mail? (It's non-alcoholic and doesn't contain any weird substances.)

- How would he go about getting bottles and labels?

- Most drinks seem to have preservatives to give it a longer shelf life. Should he look into this as well, or just sell the stuff as-is with a "best if used by" date?

posted by oissubke to Food & Drink (6 answers total)
Best answer: I am not a food scientist, but I do have a degree in food industry retail management. To sell it effectively in either retail or mail-order, unless it's refrigerated, he needs to produce a 'shelf-stable' version. That's the purpose of those preservatives, it's also the purpose of those 'natural and artificial flavors' that are basically essences of the flavor rather than the material that gives it the flavor; i.e. the particular chemical in maple syrup that gives it the maple syrup flavor vs. actual maple syrup, which can go bad (badly) in a hurry. Usually, companies who have a good product and want to expand their sales territory will contract with a food science company to develop the shelf-stable version. He could sell a refrigerated or otherwise non-chemically preserved version of the drink out of his store, but unless it's shelf-stable, most retailers won't really even look at it twice and I personally wouldn't risk sending it through the mail.

If I were to write a business plan for your friend, I would suggest that he first start bottling limited quantities in a refrigerated manner in his store. That way people can take some with them. Since it's a touristy application, make a good margin on it, and *save* that margin. Start talking to food science companies and get a good idea fo how much it's going to cost to develop a shelf-stable version, and what he needs to do to prepare the recipe; i.e. pre-work he can do to help make the recipe stable, patents on the composition or trademarks on the brand, etc. Then make a limited test batch and start selling it online and farming it to *local* grocery chains or a local beverage distributor. From there, he could choose to keep it small or try to sell it to larger stores ... but either way, he should be quite comfortable financially. ;)
posted by SpecialK at 11:42 AM on June 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

Oh, and with bottles and labels, look in the phone book. Seriously. ;) Bottles can be handled by local bottling supply companies, and for labels, look for a printer that specializes in the "Forms & Labels" business.
posted by SpecialK at 11:45 AM on June 2, 2005

Best answer: And don't forget that he may or may not need to seek FDA approval for the beverage itself, but most certainly for the label. More Information
posted by SpecialK at 11:47 AM on June 2, 2005

Best answer: Given the issues that SpecialK brings up, I would start talking to a juice company like Naked or Odwalla about a bottling (incl. pasturization) and distribution deal. Then he wouldn't have to change the recipe to produce a shelf-stable and probably inferior product.
posted by cali at 11:54 AM on June 2, 2005

OK, you've got my interest: what is the drink?
posted by fionab at 10:07 PM on June 2, 2005

Response by poster: fionab, I can't say yet, except to say that it's flippin' good, and I'm one of the people who want this person to start bottling it so I don't have to make a 500-mile round trip just to drink it.
posted by oissubke at 11:09 PM on June 2, 2005

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