Why Your Food Business Needs a Formula, Not A Recipe

recipe to formula

A great food business starts with a great recipe. If you’ve got one, you’re on the right track! But if you want to scale your production and increase your sales, you’ll need to turn that recipe into a formula. Although a recipe and a formula are similar, and often used interchangeably, there’s a big difference between the two.

In this piece, we’ll show you how to turn your recipe into a scalable professional formula. You’ll be ready to increase quantities, work with co-manufacturers, and level up your food business in no time. We worked with labeling consultant Rhonda Reitz of Integrity Labeling to craft this easy guide to taking your recipe to the next level. Her tips are below!

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What’s the Difference?

All good products start with a recipe. In your kitchen you use measures: cups, tablespoons, ounces. Or maybe you have your own quirky internal measurements, like “one yogurt-cup full”! This works fine at an early stage in your business, but it won’t work forever.

A formula is your recipe, but converted to exact weights. These weights are then converted into percentages, to make sure you have the exact amount of each ingredient every time you (or your co-packer, or your employees) manufacture your product. It is often based on pounds, grams or other weight measurements.

Why Formula?

  • Consistent Quality. When you weigh out your ingredients instead of measuring them, your finished product quality is going to be much more consistent. The way one person measures out flour may be very different than another. Is it a heaping cup, or leveled cup? Is the flour sifted first, or not? All these variations add up to inconsistent quality in your finished product.
  • Controlled Costs. Weighing out your ingredients gives you better control over your product cost. This makes it much easier to understand your unit costs, your COGS, and your margins. This is important to figure out early on!
  • Ease in Scale-ability. Converting your recipes to percentages allows you greater flexibility in being able to scale your batch up or down as needed. No more over- or under-producing your product.
  • More Accurate Label Information. Your nutrition facts and other label information will thank you!

How to Go from Recipe to Formula in Two Easy Processes

Measurements to Weights

Weigh out each ingredient in your recipe! In smaller batches, it is helpful to do this with a gram scale. In larger amounts, ingredients can be measured in ounces or pounds. You can find great scales online. Here’s a simple example with a trail mix recipe:

Peanuts: 3 cups = 426 grams

Raisins: 3 cups = 510 grams

Candy Coated Pieces: 3 cups = 681 grams

(You can see that each one of these measurements is 3 cups, but each ingredient is different in weight!)

Weights to Percentages

Next, convert your recipe in grams to a percentage.

1.) Add all ingredient weights to get your total ingredient weight.

2.) Divide the ingredient weight by the total ingredient weight.

3.) Multiply this number by 100, and that equals your ingredient percentage! Here’s the example with our trail mix:

Peanuts: 426 grams = 26.34%

Raisins: 510 grams = 31.54%

Candy Coated Pieces: 681 grams = 42.11%

Total Batch Weight = 1617 grams =100%

Congrats – your recipe is now a formula! With this in hand, you can easily hand off production to employees or co-packers, or you can scale up your current production to meet your increased demand. Time to think bigger!

A food scientist for more than 25 years, Rhonda Reitz has extensive experience in the food industry. Rhonda has done product development and food product label requirements for manufacturers large and small, including the JM Smucker Company and Hickory Farms, as well as industry groups. Integrity Labeling was born out of Rhonda’s passion for helping smaller food manufacturers compete with the much larger food giants, by providing personalized and affordable nutritional analysis and food label guidance for startups, established food manufacturers, distributors, restauranteurs and brokers. Her goal is to make complying with FDA labeling requirements easy and understandable.

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