How to start a sustainable food business

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash.

By Vina Medenilla

Many individuals in an agricultural country like the Philippines make a living from agriculture-related enterprises. However, not everyone understands what it takes to run a sustainable food business.

Building a sustainable food brand was covered in the fourth episode of the KainCon webinar series, which is part of the nationwide celebration of Filipino Food Month.

In that webinar session, Pacita “Chit” Juan, the co-founder of ECHOstore, discussed several points that existing and aspiring entrepreneurs must note should they want to build a sustainable food venture. They are as follows:

“Can you walk the talk?” This is a question that Juan raised for those who would like to start a sustainable business. She says that when building a food enterprise, you must know how to defend it and identify its purpose. 

For instance, you must check if you are a fan of the food you are selling. That way, the process will be easier because you love and enjoy what you are doing. 

She adds, “I always believe in doing business for or with something that you love and enjoy.” In her case, it’s coffee, organic food, and other essentials. 

Assessing whether the venture exists solely for financial gain or a greater cause is also important.

It’s preferable if it benefits the environment and society. Juan adds, “You also want to include the environment and to be beneficial also for other people, not only your employees but also your stakeholders.”

Food choice. “What food do you enjoy?” is another question to ask yourself. Of course, creating a sustainable food enterprise goes hand in hand with looking for food that helps reduce the carbon footprint or that is environment-friendly.

For example, if you are a fan of burgers, providing meatless or healthy alternatives on the menu is a great idea, but it’s equally important that you also enjoy what you’re offering.

Know your food source. If you are not growing the ingredients or produce that you sell, you must have an idea where they are coming from. 

Not only to ensure they are cultivated the way you want your food to be grown, but also to ensure that you have a sustainable supply chain by having a reliable and consistent source.

 “If you can find out who the farmer [of the food] is, the better. It’s best if you know who you can help and whose lives have improved through your business.”

It also gives you more credibility. Plus, it could also be a way of teaching people to be more conscious of local food producers and culture.

Knowing where to source certain produce will help your business run smoothly. “If you don’t know where to get your next supply of, for example, rice and coffee, even your business is threatened.” 

Engage your consumers. “We have to involve the consumer because the customer is a co-producer.”  Juan continued, “The consumer dictates what the farmers grow.” 

Therefore, to know what the customers want to eat, you must engage with them effectively.

She added that when you inform buyers where their food originates from, they get encouraged to support the farmers.

Be a force for good. You would want to make a positive contribution to society as a brand. 

“If you become an influencer, then you will help the farmers, support local culture, local ingredients, and local produce.”

Think of the environment. For the sake of everyone’s and the environment’s protection, choose organic or naturally-grown crops over pesticide-sprayed ones.

Think social. Who benefits from your business? Does it support local farmers or does it hurt their livelihood? According to Juan, the societal benefit or cost of the enterprise should always be considered.

Think governance. Good governance is one of the essential factors that contribute to a brand’s long-term viability. This is reflected in how you treat your employees, obey the law such as paying your taxes, and run your whole enterprise.

“Governance encompasses all of that; from how we practice our business, to how we pay our suppliers, and how we take care of everything else that is included in the business and that includes all our stakeholders, from suppliers to consumers.”

The information provided above is from KainCon, or Kain Conference, which includes a series of webinars, cookfest, and culinary films that aims to raise awareness of preserving Filipino heritage and traditions.

This event is led by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement (PCHM), and Slow Food Youth Network Philippines (SFYN).

Watch KainCon Session 4 here

For more information about the event, visit KainCon or Filipino Food Month on Facebook

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Vina Medenilla
Vina Medenilla is a content producer for Agriculture Monthly magazine. She is a graduate from Miriam College with a bachelor’s degree in Communication. Fashion, photography, and travel are some of the things she loves. For her, connection with nature is essential to one’s life.

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