How To Sell Food Online: The Ultimate Online Food Store Guide

Written by Franklin Hatchett

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Our goal at EcomElites is to help readers get the information they need, we partner with companies to help bring you that information. If a purchase or signup is made through our partners, we receive compensation for the referral. Learn More

So you want to know how to sell food online?

I get it, everyone is turning to the internet to buy online and you want a piece of the action!

Selling food online has really started to take off. There was a time when people wouldn't bother buying food online because they would usually just walk down the road to a store.

But, as people create new foods, they no longer distribute the food in stores because if they do this, they have to share the profits. It is also difficult to get into stores like Walmart because they have too many requirements.

Oh, and people are becoming lazy so they would much rather just buy food online.

It's crazy, i can go on my phone right now and order my shopping online. It would be here in a couple of hours. The world we live in now is crazy and you need to adapt to online sales if you want to sell food.

If you are great at creating new snacks, or if you want to make money selling food online, there are some critical steps you need to follow to ensure the success of your business.

I'm going to walk you through the important steps you need to take to sell food online.

Step 1: Understand The Laws

Each country has laws around food. In the United States, the FDA or Food and Drug Administration is in charge of issuing licenses to companies that manufacture food.

Whether you are manufacturing your own food or not, you need to understand these laws because there are many things that each country considers acceptable or illegal.

Generally speaking, you are better off if you first ship products to your own country only. Also, it's highly recommended that you only source food products from your own country.

This way, you can easily start your business without going through the hassle of reviewing laws and regulations per country. Your alternative is to source food from one particular country, and ship the same product only to that country.

The downside in this process is that you are limiting your sales opportunities.

If you are absolutely sure that you want to ship internationally, try to start with a maximum of three countries. Find the Customs Department for that government, and read the items that are allowed or not allowed.

This task is easier now because of the internet. You can also browse the website of shipping couriers. Many shipping websites now show a long list of banned or illegal products, such as food or spices.

One example of research is this site from the US Customs and Border Protection. Here, you will see that meat products, powdered soup mixes, and fresh produce cannot be shipped to the country. If you ship to the US, you will also see from this page that any food shipped to a person for consumption will go through an inspection.

This process will prolong the shipping time from your country to the customer. Also, you may need some special requirements to be able to ship your products, or it might be destroyed.

There are also other requirements such as getting a notice from the FDA or Customs. You need to file this notice before the food you ship will be allowed entry if you ship through a postal service.

Shipping food products are generally acceptable provided that they are packaged in a commercial manner. Examples of these are chips, candies, spices, and coffee. However, if you ship in bulk. They will go through inspection because they might be carrying insects or small animals that can bring bacteria or virus to the country.

It would be a good idea to learn more about America food law if you plan to ship food to America If the products you shipped do not meet the US standards, they will be destroyed. Europe will have different food laws that you can look up online.

The next step is important so keep reading if you want to learn how to sell food online.

Step 2: Find a Quality Supplier

There are two ways to start selling products online. The first is to find a supplier, and the second one is to create your own products.

Finding a supplier is a lot easier. As we discussed earlier, the easiest way to sell food online is to find a manufacturer who will be willing to ship the products to your customer.

If your business model is dropshipping, you may find some difficulties doing this because it is not a common business practice for food manufacturers to ship their products in one by one. They prefer to ship the products in bulk in retail stores such as Walmart, but not directly to customers.

The solution to this problem to have the food products shipped to your house, and then you keep these food products as inventory.

In order for you to compete with others who are selling the same thing, you need to contact the manufacturer to get a discount.

You can also find food suppliers from online marketplaces, and an example of this is Green Dropship. It is a site where you can find suppliers who will let you buy their products on retail. They will also ship the products for you.

This store specializes in organic food products, which is a hot product for people who are health conscious. This is also a good choice if you are focusing on customers who care enough for the environment.

The other option is to cook your own food and package it on our own. This is the best choice if you know what you are doing, or if you have created something that is unique. This is also less of a hassle because you do not have to deal with third-party vendors.

If you cook your own products, you have to make sure that you also comply with your own country’s laws. This is where your problems will start. Not that it is impossible, but it is difficult to get into the food business.

First, you need to get a permit from the local government and then you need to have your products inspected by your country’s health department. The packaging must also comply with the expectations, and they must contain the following information.

  • Ingredients – provide the raw ingredients used to make the product
  • Health table – provide the fat content, sodium, and so much more; this has to be in globally acceptable terms like grams per serving
  • Expiration date – this is the period that states what date the food is no longer safe for consumption
  • Made from – this indicated which location the product was manufactured and which country.

As you can see, you have to go through a lot of steps to be able to get your products up and running. After completing all these, that is only the time you can apply for a notice in the FDA or Customs that you will be shipping your products to the US.

Step 3: Package Your Products Well

This step applies to both business models where you outsource the food, or you manufacture on your own.

If you are dropshipping, then this is not an issue because the supplier will take care of it. But if you are in wholesale or you are manufacturing your own food products, you need to make sure the packaging will not rip apart during transport.

how to sell food online

Here are some tips to packaging your own food products.

  • Style – make sure that your food product is in a package that is inviting to the eyes. It is a good idea to show a picture of the food, as this will get the attention of the buyer.
  • Packaging type – there are different types of food packaging, and you must only use food grade packaging materials. If possible, do not use anything that can harm the environment, such as styrofoam, because it can get banned upon entry to a country.
  • Weight – the packaging must contain the weight of the entire package.
  • Net Weight – this is the weight of the food without the packaging
  • Protection – always remember that the food will be tossed aroundduring shipment. Use high-grade packaging that can withstand this.

Step 4: Build Your Online Food Store

One of the most important part to learning how to sell food online is having somewhere to sell the food!

Now that your product is ready, it is time that you build your store. To do this, you need a platform. There are so many out there to choose from. Some are free, and some have a monthly subscription.

Here are some examples of how you can build a store.

  • Shopify
  • Magento
  • WooCommerce
  • Big Commerce
  • WordPress

You can review each one, and then decide later on which one offers the best service for your money.

We recommend Shopify because they have a free 14 day trial you can get here.

This is what you need to consider before building a store.

Ease of Use

If you are not a computer programmer, chances are you will find it very difficult and confusing to put up your own website. You must look for a platform that works as social media. What this means is that it should let you build a store with a few clicks, and by dragging and dropping pictures.

This is why I recommend Shopify, it's super easy to use.

Some web builders are complicated. With Shopify all you need to do is choose one template, and then add your product photos plus descriptions.

Try to avoid paying a web developer because if this person goes, it will be too difficult for you to solve any technical issues that may happen on your web store.

With Shopify you won't need to pay anyone to do it for you anyway. It's really easy to use.

This Youtube video I created will show you just how easy it is to use.

Food Store Monthly Cost

Consider the monthly cost of maintaining your website. The cost varies from one company to another, and you need to review what kind of services you are getting.

Beware of those that offer really cheap prices. Some of these will just let you build a site, but you will not be able to sell. The best ones are those that offer a low-cost monthly fee, and yet allow you to build a website that is ready to run your online store.

A good example of this is Shopify. You can get the basic package or only $29 per month, but this already allows you to sell online.

Once you get your trial and the store is live Shopify have free themes you can upload so you can start selling.

App Support

A low-cost store does not have all the bells and whistles you need to make your store professional. For example, the storw you built does not have a carousel, which can really make your store beautiful and organized because customers can easily browse your products.

Apps have a cost, too. But most are free. You can buy apps for a one-time purchase, or you can subscribe to them monthly.

As you choose your store platform, you need to put this into serious consideration. Over time, you will want your website to look different. You will also want to have more features, like offering games for fun, or easier shipping and inventory management, or an app that lets you create discount codes that your store can apply to customer purchases.

Customer Support

Choose a plarform that offers customer service in at least three channels. These are email, phone, and live chat. This is important. One day, you might face technical issues that you cannot fix on your own.

The worst thing that can happen is if you tinker on the code of your website’s theme, and then you made a terrible mistake. Only an expert can fix this. You can either hire an expert to pay him for his time, or you can get the service for free.

Payment Processors

Choose a website builder platform that offers not only one payment processor. As a seller, you should have the option which payment systems to use.

There are hundreds of payment systems out there. The ones that you should use are those that charge the lowest cost of fees. The most popular in the world today is PayPal.

When selling your food products, you have to take into account the cost of the payment fees. In most cases, you will not pay more than 5% of the money you received.

Step 5: Start Marketing Your Food Store

Once your product is ready, and your website is up, it is time to market them. There are many ways to do this, and you must be ready to spend money to get your name out there.

These are some of my favourite way to find hungry buyers.

Google Ads

One of the best ways to advertise about your food products is through Google. You can advertise by using videos and photos, and you can also program Google to show your ads on specific locations only.

If you use this, you will be able to target specific people, and also target specific keywords. If your food is banana-based, you can use keywords that have something to do with bananas, and then your ad will appear of people search for banana foods on the Google search engine.

Social Media

No one can deny that social media is one of the most powerful ways to sell a product online. People are on it every day, and it will be easy to reach these people to sell your food products.

Don't be afraid to advertise your products on social media. Since you are selling food, it is best to use Facebook and Instagram where you can upload photos of your food. Use pictures that highlight the quality of your food products, and make sure you take a close angle in the photo shots.

This video will show you step by step how to create a Facebook ad for your online food store.

Affiliate Marketing

This is a business model where sellers will attempt to market your product. For each successful sale that they make, you give them a commission.

Before you can make this happen, you have to create an affiliate program using a plugin. This program will generate the links that your affiliate marketers will use to sell, and then you can track how much they already sold. This will also automatically calculate the commissions, and let you see who has already received payment and who has not.


Food blogs are really popular and easy to drive organic traffic to. On Shopify you can create blog rages that will eventually rank in Google getting you traffic!

Time To Sell Food Online!

The food business is a thriving industry. All it takes is for you to be diligent. Read the laws and the regulatory policies of the countries where you want to ship.

Since food spoils, it is always best to target countries where you can ship in as little as ten days. This helps preserve the quality of the food.

The steps presented can be done at the same time, or you can take the steps one by one. If you are doing business with partners, it is best to separate the tasks, so you accomplish more things in a short period of time.

Now you know how to sell food online from your very own ecommerce store!

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