The 12 Best Food Business Ideas

Have you ever met anyone who doesn’t love food? We didn’t think so. All humans need food to survive, but it’s also something many are passionate about. Which is why starting a business in the food industry will give you access to an extremely large customer base. In 2019, it was estimated that restaurants alone would make up $863 billion in sales.[1] Meaning, if you can offer tasty food at fair prices, you should have no trouble finding people to buy your food. If you know you want to start a culinary career, consider some of these food business ideas. 

What Is a Food Business?

Before we dive into what the best new food business ideas are, how about we take a closer look at what a food business is. Food businesses can range vastly. You can open up an old-fashioned diner that serves burgers and shakes. Or you can sell your special blend of trail mix online. You can cater weddings or deliver homemade meals to hungry customers. Feel free to get creative—you may have a really unique idea that could revolutionize how people sell and buy food.

12 Great Food Business Ideas 

We’ve rounded up the best food business ideas that range from creating new products to selling goods online to opening a physical storefront. The world is your oyster. Speaking of which, those are pretty trendy right now if you want to open up a charming seaside oyster shop.

1. Food Truck

The food truck trend has been going strong for a few years now and we can see why. For a fraction of the cost of opening a restaurant, foodie entrepreneurs can bring their food to the masses. Food truck owners usually park their trucks at hotspots like street fairs or outside busy office parks. Essentially, they can go wherever the customers are.

Food trucks typically focus on a few specialty dishes, which contributes to their success. The chefs can master a handful of dishes versus trying to perfect two dozen different options. In 2020, the food truck industry is estimated to be valued at $996.2 million, so this trend doesn’t appear to be dying down anytime soon.[2] 

2. Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives

People are crazy about non-dairy milk alternatives. From nuts to oats to more, there have never been more options for milk alternatives, and people can’t get enough of these creamy, plant-based ice cream, milk, and cheese. They love these non-dairy alternatives so much that in 2017 the global dairy alternatives market size was estimated at $11.9 billion.[3] If you can master a recipe for a dairy-free milk product, you’ll have a customer base in no time.

3. Plant-Based Meat

If you think non-dairy milk is having a moment, then wait until you hear about plant-based meat alternatives. You can capitalize on the success of brands like the Impossible Burger by selling their products at your restaurant. Or you can learn how to make your own meat-free products and take the plant-based meat industry by storm.

Experts predict that sales from the plant-based meat market may grow up to $85 billion by the year 2030.[4] Plant-based meats are like the gold rush of the food industry, so get in while there’s still room for new players. 

4. Meal Delivery Service

It’s no secret that we’re busier than ever. After a long day of work, commuting, and taking care of the kids, cooking is the last thing most of us have time to do. But fast food doesn’t feel like a healthy option for the whole family anymore. Enter the meal delivery service. You can deliver fresh homemade meals to customers, ship them healthy frozen meals, or prepare meal-making kits for them. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to offering meal delivery services, as long as your meals are easy to prepare and tasty. In 2016, 27% of internet users purchased meal kits online.[5] The industry has grown a lot since then. In 2015, the industry was valued at $1 billion, and in 2020, it’s expected to expand to over $10 billion. 

5. Specialty Diet Supplies

Vegan, paleo, keto, gluten-free, pick your poison. Or rather, pick your specialty diet. Customers who have specialty diets will appreciate any food brands, restaurants, shops, or farmers market stalls that can give them more tasty options than they are accustomed to finding. Catering to a specialty diet (or several) will help you build a niche and loyal audience. The trickier the diet, the better. If you offer tasty solutions to their food problems, you’ll develop a solid customer base in no time. 

6. Bakery

If there is nothing you love more than a day spent in the kitchen whipping up a batch of your favorite treats, then you may want to start a bakery business. Bread, pastries, and other yummy desserts have been popular for ages and always will be. If you want to learn more about how to make your bakery dream a reality, check out this guide to opening your own bakery. 

7. Catering

A catering business can take on many forms. You can go large-scale and cater weddings or corporate events. Or you might want to keep things simple and stick to offering treats for baby showers or office holiday parties. The choice is yours. You can run a catering business out of your home or can utilize a commercial kitchen space. Catering businesses offer flexibility because you don’t have to stay open seven days a week and you can pick and choose what jobs you take on. If this is a path you want to go down, check out this article on starting a successful catering business.  

8. Coffee Shop

Everyone loves a good cup of joe. Today more than ever in fact. In fact, the industry is expected to grow by 4.5% each year through 2023.[6] From cappuccinos to lattes to home-brewed blends, people take their java seriously. Most people want a quality cup of coffee. Whether that comes from a coffee shop or a great home blend, you can be the business that provides them with their favorite beverage. You can sell at-home coffee machines, specialty blends, or even treats to go with their coffee. 

9. Specialty Shop

Can you sense trends coming before they’re the next big thing? Capitalize on your trendsetting ways and open up a specialty food shop. Offer up the buzziest products in the food world before everyone else—or keep it classic. Everyone loves high-quality wine, olive oil, and bread to start. Perfect one of those fan-favorites to sell in your specialty shop. You can also go exotic. Open a shop, online or in-person, that gives customers a taste of traditional Spanish food. Or source the best Japanese treats customers can’t easily find in their local grocery store. Once you settle on a specialty, you can work on sourcing or making the best products to entice the most discerning customers. 

10. Kombucha Brewing

Kombucha has been pretty popular in the beverage world these past few years. This tangy drink may not be for everybody, but the market is expected to grow to a worth of $3.5 billion by 2025.[7] So clearly, there are plenty of people who can’t get enough of it. While big markets like Whole Foods sell blends from large companies, kombucha from small brands is really popular too. Even more exciting, you can get creative with flavor combinations to carve out a niche in the market not filled by the bigger brands. Whether you want to create a kombucha empire or keep things homemade, there is room for you in this market. 

11. Craft Brewery

A six-pack from the grocery store used to do the trick, but nowadays, it’s all about the craft brewery. In 2018, less than 435 craft breweries generated $5.4 billion.[8] That’s a pretty high revenue for each brewery. While there are a decent amount of startup costs for this food business idea, this guide can help you start a successful brewery. And if fancy beer isn’t your thing, take advantage of this trend and try to tap into what the next must-have beverage may be. 

12. Farmers Market Stall

If you’re looking for a simpler way to start a food business, why not try selling your goods at your local farmers market first? That way, you avoid paying pricey rent on a storefront or shipping your products to customers across the country. Farmers markets are a great way to get to know your community and to receive feedback from your first customers, all while keeping your overhead low. 

What Makes a Food Business Idea a Good One

Now that we’ve laid out various food business ideas, you may be feeling overwhelmed by your choices. How do you make your business a success? The simple answer is: good food. Well, we wish it was that simple anyways. Making high-quality and delicious food is a great place to start. But you’ll also have to master the perfect mix of trendy cuisine and timeless favorites. Using healthy ingredients, keeping your prices low, and offering amazing customer support can’t hurt either.

Before you get to the fun parts of perfecting recipes or looking for a storefront, you’ll want to make sure you’ve chosen a great food business idea. Do some market research and analyze the demand for the type of business you’re going to start. Review recent Google trends to see if your product or cuisine is being searched for. Dig through social media posts to uncover if influencers and customers are talking about restaurants like yours. Do a deep dive into how your marketplace performed in recent years and what the experts are predicting future performance will look like.

If you can’t find much support for your burgeoning food business online, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. You may have a really original idea that people will go nuts over. Just make sure your original idea is in line with what people are currently supporting. Do you live in a health-conscious town? Maybe a candy business isn’t the best idea. Do you think your idea would be really beneficial to busy moms? Make sure your marketing plan is on point. You can stand out from the crowd, as long as there’s a need for your product or services.

The Takeaway

With a little creativity, determination, and planning you’ll find a new food business idea that can work for you. You may want to dream big and sell your products in grocery stores nationwide. But hey, you might want to keep things simple and offer local catering services. The choice is completely yours. As long as you find your niche and bring delicious food to the people, you’re sure to find success.

Article Sources:

  1. Restaurant.org. “National Statistics
  2. Statista.com. “Value of the U.S. Food Truck Industry from 2014 to 2020
  3. GrandViewResearch.com. “Dairy Alternatives Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product (Soy Milk, Almond Milk, Rice Milk), By Formulation (Plain, Flavored), By Application (Food, Beverages), and Segment Forecasts, 2019-2025
  4. BusinessInsider.com. “UBS Predicts Plant-Based Meat Sales Could Grow by More Than 25% a Year to $85 Billion by 2030
  5. Statista.com. “Online Meal Kit Delivery Services in the U.S. – Statistics and Facts
  6. Statista.com. “Coffee
  7. GlobeNewswire.com. “Kombucha Market to Grow at 13% CAGR to Hit $3.5 Billion by 2025 – Androit Market Research
  8. Forbes.com. “U.S. Craft Brew Industry 2018 Growth was a Guarded 4%

Jacqueline DeMarco

Jacqueline DeMarco is a small business owner and freelance writer and editor based in Southern California. She has written on everything from finance to travel for publications including LendingTree, SoFi, MagnifyMoney, LearnVest, Northwestern Mutual, and Apartment Therapy, among others.

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