The New Rules of Food

The past five years have seen a huge boom in boutique, specialty, and niche food startups—a process chronicled by Rachel Hofstetter in her new book, Cooking Up a Business, out in December. Most follow a similar success plan.

1) Make simple food

Every recipe is a list of sourced materials—and some are hard to scale. That's why many startups begin lean. Alex Hasulak and Maddy D'Amato of Love Grown Foods typify the decision: They originally wanted to sell pesto but switched to granola because it was easier to make, store, and transport.

2) Cook in the dark

Kitchens are expensive. So a black (as in, nighttime) market has developed, in
which startups rent kitchen space from bakeries or caterers after hours. (Some food incubators, such as Hot Bread Kitchen in New York, can provide a more normal schedule, but they're in limited supply.)

3) Follow the roads

Tech startups can set up wherever there's Internet. But food startups need highways made of pavement. Colorado has become particularly hot popular newbies such as Justin's and Evol Foods. The state sits at the intersection of trucking routes and is full of supportive industry groups.

4) Feed for free

People might be skeptical of new brands, but they rarely turn down giveaways.
Demoing in a local Whole Foods is often helpful, but the savviest startups go where savvy customers are—to farmers' markets, local fairs, or even straight to offices, just as Popchips did when it launched in New York.

[Illustrations by Miguel Montaner]

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