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The past few years has witnessed a boost in the popularity of microgreens, as many people have leaned towards healthier food recipes.
Harvested immediately after sprouting, microgreens are quite small and are packed with many beneficial nutrients. That’s the main reason why their demand has risen substantially, which makes selling them a highly lucrative business.
Thus, there’s nothing like it if you’ve decided to start producing and selling microgreens! But just like any other business, there are lots of things to consider when you’re starting out. So, to make things easier for you, we have compiled this guide on all the essential information regarding starting a microgreens business.
With all said and done, let’s get going!
How To Sell Microgreens 101
- How To Sell Microgreens 101
- Selling Microgreens- A Brief Overview
- Frequently Asked Questions
A Guide To Growing Microgreens
It is much simpler to grow microgreens than cultivating full-fledged crops. And that’s why lots of people have ventured into the business in the last few years. In simple words, you essentially need to provide proper care during the growing process to make sure that your produce is healthy and nutritious. And here are some vital factors to consider for that:
Getting All The Essentials
Just like any other green produce, the basic accessories for growing microgreens include trays, seeds, soil, and packaging material. That said, the soil can be replaced by growing mats, which is a full-fledged growing medium on its own. Moving on to seeds required for microgreens, they must be untreated and preferably organic.
Before you begin growing any microgreen variety, considering the weather in your region is important. Especially if the region is warmer and more humid, you will need to be extra careful to prevent mold formation. Additionally, you must check the moisture of the growing medium regularly to curtail overwatering.
Ensuring proper air circulation is also a prerequisite, so you must place the growing medium in an airy place or use a fan for the purpose. We’d suggest planting less seeds in each tray in case the climate is warm and humid.
Sourcing The Seed And Soil
You can purchase the seeds from the gardening center in your area or visit the nearest store for agricultural supplies. Purchasing the seeds online is also a great option, as there are lots of online stores selling quality microgreen seeds.
With regards to the soil, you can find it in many gardening centers and stores for agricultural products as well. But you must ensure that the soil contains about 80% organic material such as sterilized compost, peat moss, and coconut coir.
Selling Microgreens- A Brief Overview
First of all, let us tell you that the success of this business may be different for different individuals. However, if you consider the basic economics behind it, you’ll have a better understanding of its viability.
For a business to be viable, its profitability and sustainability over a long time should be considered. Speaking about the former aspect, selling microgreens is quite beneficial as it can yield great profits. As for the sustainability criterion, they won’t be going anywhere since their demand and popularity is rising with each passing day.
Another noticeable feature of the microgreens business is the variation in local markets, which makes it essential to carefully evaluate the local area. We will look into this aspect in greater detail in the next section.
Where Can They Be Sold?
Figuring out the places where you can sell the microgreens is a major step in setting up the business, so you need to be very careful while deciding this. There are several marketing channels available, with each having their own pros and cons.
Hence, you will have to check out the options available and determine the quality of their service in your area. And in this section, we will take you through each of the feasible marketing channels for selling microgreens.
Although not utilized widely for microgreens, this marketing channel is potentially one of the most profitable mediums out there. This is evident from the huge demand for home-delivered goods across the world.
First things first, setting up a subscription system is essential for many of the marketing channels that we’ll be discussing. In the case of home delivery, individual households will have to be signed up for the service.
For this, you must have a website where customers are able to sign up and pay for the microgreens, which will allow you to fully concentrate on the delivery part. Besides, if you find that other channels are saturated, delivering microgreens at your customers’ doorstep will be the best alternative.
However, it should be kept in mind that a good customer count is needed to generate a decent profit from this channel. The delivery process is also more time-consuming, especially if you’re doing it all yourself. So, you may need more workforce after a few months into the business.
Most city restaurants require a consistent supply of microgreens for their dishes, and as such, you can even get a higher price in exchange for great quality. That’s why it is another highly profitable marketing channel to go for.
Since restaurants always tend to support local farmers, opting for this channel can do wonders for your business. That’s primarily because most restaurants want to convey to their customers that they use local ingredients, which also gives them the liberty to charge an additional amount for their dishes.
We’d advise choosing the restaurants you wish to cater to by putting together the names of about 20 best outlets in the city.
Then, visit at least five of them daily at any time during the day other than the rush hours.Talk to the chefs about your business and give them a small sample of about 250 gms, and pay them a visit again after a couple of days to get their feedback on the same. This also is the time to ask them whether they are interested in ordering your microgreens on a bulk basis.
Approaching grocery stores to sell your produce is also a good option for a variety of reasons. It often happens that the varieties available are not very fresh since they are shipped over large distances. That means you may get the chance to deliver produce of the desired quality on a regular basis.
On a side note, here’s a piece of advice; you should discuss with the sellers in the stores about their expected product quantity and quality, their criteria for choosing vendors, and whether their market varies seasonally. These factors will come in very handy for logistics.
Farmers’ markets are much different than the other channels because of the tough competition among sellers. However, the good news is that being relatively new, microgreens have less prevalence in farmers’ markets as sellers generally focus on other crops.
As such, it is important to visit local farmers’ markets to have a first-hand experience of the selling process. That way, it will be easier to understand how your competitors’ pricing policy fits into your business plan.
At this point, considering the effort that you will have to put in is also important. You must take into account the time involved in setup and take-down while being careful not to bring too much to the market. In case of the latter, you will have to go home with the extra goods, but this problem can be overcome by converting your customers in the market into home-delivery customers.
How To Sell Microgreens?
Following the right approach in setting up your microgreens business can bring in profits in less time! So, let’s have a look at the various steps involved in the process.
Set The Price
Setting the price is of course the first step, as it’s the primary factor influencing your saleability. While deciding the price, it is absolutely essential to consider the labor cost and the overhead cost. Now, both these factors will depend on the marketing channel you choose, so the pricing shouldn’t be the same in case you’re using multiple channels.
For instance, when you’re selling the product in a farmers’ market, the labor costs for the entire day is high and packaging costs are also involved. But for restaurant deliveries and wholesale orders, the overhead and labor costs are significantly low.
It is essential to add value to your microgreen products, as it will help boost the business sales, gain customers, and increase your existing clients’ satisfaction. In fact, this technique is already being applied by a range of businesses to raise their saleability.
There are some simple methods that you can apply to add value to your microgreen commodities. For example, it would be great if you could provide samples of the newly included microgreen products.
Likewise, distributing information flyers is a good way to let people know about your business. You can even try including some recipe leaflets with the microgreens you’re selling.
Discover What’s Most Popular
Choosing the right microgreens for your business is as important as deciding the price. Hence, you should explore as many popular microgreen varieties as you can. Those having smaller farms should select a few varieties that are sought-after in the local market rather than growing and selling many varieties.
On that note, here are some popular microgreens that you may want to grow for your business.
Home cooks as well as chefs like this variety as it has a nice color, spicy flavor, and is much cheaper than some other varieties. Not only that, but it also comes in colors such as purple and green, which add to the aesthetic appeal of the dish.
This variety is also quite popular, but getting the desired quality can be challenging if the seeds are disease-affected, hull-shedding, or have germination problems.
Fresh basil adds a pleasant flavor to almost any dish, which is why it is commonly used in a variety of dishes including pasta and salads. Hence, this one will appeal to restaurant owners and professional and home cooks alike.
- Broccoli And Salad Mix
These microgreens are among the most sought-after health food and are also used as neutral green garnishes for many recipes.
- Beet, Chard, And Amaranth
These wonderful microgreens can add a splash of color to enhance the visual appeal of a dish, but growing them can be quite challenging. Besides being a lovely ingredient for salads, these greens are used for garnishing too.
You may consider growing other microgreen varieties as well if you find that there is a great local demand for that product. Remember that subtracting or adding varieties from your plan is not a problem, so don’t hesitate to try a new product provided it has substantial demand.
Carve A Niche
After conducting the initial research on the local market and figuring out which microgreens are popular in the said area, finding your comfort zone is the next step. Decide whether you will be growing the same varieties as other producers or will try growing a different variety.
Notably, looking for a niche in the market for microgreens is the most viable option to go for when the local channels are saturated. A business for microgreens typically falls in any one the three, camps, namely camp 1, camp 2, or camp 3.
While camp 1 deals with those selling primary microgreens such as radish, sunflower, peas, and brassicas, camp 2 concerns the businesses dealing with special varieties such as mustards, cilantro, beets, amaranth, corn shoots, etc. Lastly, camp 3 is dedicated to those selling most of the well-known varieties.
Selling your products directly to co-ops, grocers, and restaurants will surely generate profits, but you should also explore other opportunities for marketing. In this regard, your location and the time of the year would influence your business, thereby creating more seasonal opportunities.
In this section, we present you with some ideas to bank upon while exploring marketing opportunities for your microgreens.
- Joining Growers’ Cooperatives Or CSAs
Sometimes, buyers may need a larger amount of a particular product than what can be produced by one microgreen farmer. In case such a need arises, you could partner with other growers to meet the demand.
While working with them, you may also develop better bargaining power, which would ultimately boost the bottom line of your business.
- Word-Of-Mouth Sale
As surprising as it might sound, word-of-mouth can add to your profit in a short span. If you can have some customers visiting your home, a lot of microgreens can be sold without having to venture out. For example, parents who have to take care of young children at home can earn profits from selling microgreens without paying for daycare.
- Roadside Stands
Although there is a common perception that they are outdated, roadside stands put up in many regions of the country generate substantial profits to this day.
You can utilize this marketing strategy to its fullest in the relatively less-populated areas since they are likely to be more accepting of it. But do remember to check with the local authority for any necessary permit to be obtained.
Generally, it’s considered better to market microgreens by adopting more than one strategy. That’s because it’s very difficult to anticipate any sudden disturbance in one marketing segment that may cause business operations to halt. So, if your segments are diversified, it will be easier to handle a drop in one of them.
Packaging costs play a significant role in many businesses, and marketing microgreens is no exception. A basic rule that you must take into account is that packaging requirements will most likely be different for different marketing channels.
For instance, while restaurants may want to purchase the produce packed in simple bags of plastic, grocers might want more sophisticated packages such as plastic clamshells. Your profits will be affected by the costs involved in packaging, so do take note of this when choosing and using various packaging materials.
Another important consideration while choosing the package is its impact on the environment. For example, the plastic clamshells preferred by grocers may not appeal to growers who aim to preserve the environment through eco-friendly business practices.
Now, though biodegradable packaging materials have been created in the recent past, many of them can be composted only at industrial facilitates. Since you may not always find such facilities in every place, such alternatives may not serve the purpose. As a result, these might have adverse effects on the environment if dumped elsewhere.
The ideal approach for deciding the packaging material will be to go through the various options available and to compare their costs.
In case you’re selling the products to customers visiting your home, they might be satisfied with simpler packing materials. On the other hand, if you decide to sell the living form of the produce, it doesn’t have to be separated from the growing medium. Thus, the need for packaging is practically eliminated altogether.
Some Additional Tips
For your microgreens business to function steadily and earn a decent profit, you have to make sure that the different sections are handled in the right way. Keeping that in mind, we have listed a few essential tips that will help you manage the business successfully.
Notice The Current Trends
You can’t succeed in the business if you fail to use current developments to your advantage. For instance, if you produce a single microgreen and there is an abrupt decrease in the demand for that variety, you will invariably have to face a loss.
But this risk can be averted by keeping track of the evolving choices of customers and adapting to the changes accordingly. And the best way to stay updated is to follow the latest diet trends and related research items.
At the same time, be proactive in marketing instead of waiting for an increase in demand. You can engage in creative marketing of the varieties that are gaining popularity.
Tactful Time Management
Although time may not come across as a crucial factor for setting up a microgreens business, it is indeed the key to making the venture truly successful.
Ensure that you devote a solid amount of time to the business without any major interruptions. That said, we are leaving out the exceptions here as a sudden emergency that may require you to stay out of the business activities for some days.
For running a small microgreens business, you will need around two hours everyday. A significant amount of time will be required for handling the growing process daily, including planting the new trays, watering, harvesting, and auditing.
A big chunk of your time will also be needed for making deliveries and marketing, where the latter includes visiting various marketplaces like restaurants, groceries, and farmers’ markets. So, you will have to reserve a few days for these visits at the beginning.
Evaluate Any Health Risk
While selecting and growing the microgreens that are most popular is of course the primary objective, you also need to consider the risk factors. Improper handling of seeds and plants will increase the risk of spreading diseases, so you should evaluate the process in which the microgreens are being grown and handled.
This way, you can also ensure that any risks to the health of your customers are minimized. We’d suggest devoting some time to know the advice offered by health officials for mitigating potential health risks. You may get more such information from the various seminars held from time to time where experts provide advice on health-related issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do You Need A Lot Of Money For Starting A Microgreens Business?
You will require a very reasonable amount to start a microgreens business. However, buying more of the basic apparatus and multiple varieties will be beneficial in the long run. Hence, you can start by planting about 10 trays of two or three different varieties in the first phase, as that will help understand what works best for you.
Can You Start A Microgreens Business Alone?
If you’re a beginner in the microgreens business, there’s no need to hire anyone immediately. But as the business grows, you should start inducting people or even consider building teams to handle the growing deliveries, harvesting tasks, and marketing.
Should Hydroponic Systems Be Used For Growing Microgreens?
To achieve maximum growth of your microgreens in a hydroponic medium, you have to use powerful chemical fertilizers. This, in turn, might reduce the nutritional value of the produce, which is why a hydroponic system is not an ideal growing medium for microgreens, in our opinion.
Beyond that, this medium might increase the moisture levels in the sprouts, thereby increasing the chances of bacterial infections.
In Which Stage Should You Harvest Your Microgreens?
This varies with the taste of an individual and also with the variety of microgreens being developed. Some microgreens like cilantro, basil, and celery must not be cut until visibly developed leaves develop on the sprouts. Other varieties such as radishes, cabbage, and kohlrabi should be cut when they are 3 or 4 inches in height.
However, you can harvest those like kales and mustards during either stage according to the tastes and preferences of consumers.
Dealing in microgreens is quite rewarding, no matter whether you want to pursue it as a side business or create a career for the long term. Furthermore, since you can start it on a small scale and expand gradually there isn’t much financial risk involved.
With this, we have almost come to the end of our guide. But before we take your leave, here’s a pro tip for all beginners in the business : making minimal investments at the beginning and using the proceeds in financing its future growth is the best strategy to adopt for your microgreens business. So, go ahead and give it a shot!
Signing off with best wishes!