For many early stage food brands, a Farmer's Market is an excellent way to reach the target consumer. It is an opportunity to test your production and learn about how the consumer responds to your product.
A few things to keep in mind
When possible look for a market that will appeal to your target consumer. Review the location, atmosphere and vendors of the market. Some markets cater to the consumer who is looking for a upscale shopping experience and creative gourmet food products. While other markets prioritize offering local foods and fresh produce at good value. Check them out in person before you sign up to see if they align with your brand image and will help you reach your target consumer.
Think of markets as an opportinty to build on market research. You can post a QR code or share a link to an online survey requesting feedback post purchase or in real time based on samples (try Typeform.com or Survey Monkey.com).
Connecting directly with your consumer to hear their feedback is great but remember that anonymous feedback is often more representative of how people actually feel.
Use the opportunity to build your digital marketing/social media following. Take photos and create impactul content.
Remember that provincial food handling regulations apply
Pay attention to the requirements of the provincial food regulations to be sure that any rules related to home processing, labelling, food handler certificates or other manufacturing and food handling requirements are met by you and the market organizers.
Some provinces have minor exemptions. For example in Ontario the Ontario Food Premises Reference Document states that markets that sell mostly farm grown produce may be exempt from certain requirements.
It is important to check with the market organizers to confirm what requirements apply.
Traceability requirements apply at a Farmers Market. See this resource from the CFIA to learn more.
Don't forget about labelling requirements
Products need to be labelled. There are exemptions to bilingual labelling requirement for products that are sold in the municipality in which they are made. Read more here.
There is also an exemption to nutrition labelling for products that are sold ONLY at markets and sold by the manufacturer. Read more here.
Know the costs
Pricing depends on setting, equipment provided (extra tables, coolers, electicity, water), and the contract you set up.
Include in your cost assessment the time and labour required for you to set up, manage and take down your stall.
Think about extra costs like signage, sampling, coolers, etc.
Check out this link from Alberta Agriculture with a list of costs to consider:
Finding a market
Plan ahead, for high demand markets there could be a waiting list or an approval process. Most provinces have a Farmer's Market Association that manages markets across the province. This can give you confidence that you are signing up with a provincially approved or higher reputation market.
The Farmer's Markets approach is not a fit for every product type. But for many brand owners it is an effective way to test the market, build brand awareness and connect with the consumer.
Written By: Venturepark Labs Team