Your Most Important Relationship is With Your Co-Packer. Here’s What to Know.

As your business grows, and your inventory needs increase, you don’t have time to sit and celebrate. Suddenly you have a new set of challenges, like keeping up with demand from your retailers. One way some brands choose to deal with this challenge is by outsourcing their production to a co-packer, also known as a contract manufacturer. A co-packer will make your product for you, which allows you to increase production without investing in costly equipment or labor. They’ll also handle other aspects of production, such as ingredient sourcing and some third-party certifications. These aspects depend on how your contract is executed.

This sounds great. How do I get one?

Not so fast, friend. Negotiating a co-packing relationship is no small feat. It’s absolutely imperative that you go into the search educated about what your needs are. Natural Products Insider has a great list of questions to ask internally, so you can get it right. The knowledge you’ll need for the meeting requires making predictions about production demand, and testing processes that you might eventually need for certain retailers. These kinds of information can seem impossible to know. If you have the resources, you can hire a co-packing expert to help you make educated guesses about your current and future needs.

What should I ask them?

If you’re not going into the meeting full of information about your product and your business, you’re not prepared. As The Balance notes, “Far too many food entrepreneurs expect the co-packer to educate them. Co-packers are not in the business of educating.” But you’ll also need to ask plenty of questions in order to find a partnership that works for you. That same Balance article notates many of the questions that will help you get the right intel, including:

  • Will the co-packer purchase the ingredients and packaging?
  • Can the existing equipment be used to make your product?
  • What are the costs associated with emergency short runs?

Finding a co-packer who truly wants to see your product succeed, and will allow you some flexibility as your needs change, is the key to a lasting relationship.

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