How to stand out in the food industry

When it comes to the food industry, the saturated market is as high in competition as it is fat.

In order to stand out, small businesses are turning to niche interests to get customers through the door.

Here’s how an organic wholesaler, cheese enthusiast and tea specialist capitalised on a niche market.

Be Flexible

Located on King Street, Newtown, Adam Clifford’s eco-emporium, Dr Earth, is stocked to the brim with environmentally friendly products. You can find anything from probiotic kefir frozen yoghurt or purple berry banana balls, to organic cotton socks and eucalyptus face-lift oil.

Source: Dr Earth

Source: Dr Earth

With booms in the eco-friendly movement moving healthy eating into the mainstream, Adam understood to compete with major retailers like Coles and Woolworths, he would have to play to his independent business’s strengths.

Source: Dr Earth

Source: Dr Earth

“The benefit of being an independent retailer is that we can literally go to the market and source fresh produce every single day, quickly and more efficiently than the ‘majors’. We have a degree of flexibility that they don’t have. Dr. Earth can change fast to meet demand and keep innovative”.

Source: Dr Earth

Source: Dr Earth

“Every day there’s also a qualified nutritionist or naturopath on the shop floor. This service adds legitimacy and reassures clients that they’ll get the very best recommendations”.

Make the effort to source interesting products

Enmore Road’s resident artisan cheese bar, The Stinking Bishops, combines their comical name with a creative, extensive range of cheese products for customers to sample.

Named after a particularly potent British cheese, co-owner and chef Kieran Day explains the “stinking bishop” as “a beautiful washed-rind cheese made in cider.”

“When we first opened people were a bit unsure about the name, but now they seem to be getting used to it.”

The Stinking Bishop stock cheeses from all over the world, with about 80 per cent coming in from Europe and sourced mainly through wholesale suppliers. “We always strive to have a really interesting selection of cheeses – something a little different from the norm.”

“It can be difficult getting international cheeses into the country. When you develop into a larger business you can deal with those constraints yourself, but, for us at the moment, it’s better to work with someone else,” Kieran says.

The shop’s Enmore Road location ensures it gets plenty of footfall – to such an extent that they don’t take bookings for dinner during the busy second half of the week.

As something quite new to Sydney, the concept of a cheese restaurant did present its risks, but was ultimately one worth taking. “People have really responded to it and we’ve been very fortunate because we’ve been very busy since we’ve opened,” he smiles. “It was a bit risky doing something new and so niche, but it’s been fully embraced.”

Make It Your Specialty

Amber Hudson, founder and owner of T Totaler on King Street in Newtown, loves tea so much, she’s become the best in her field. Amber and her husband Paul began making tea for family and friends, eventually moving into a shop in 2012. Amber’s passion for tea is backed up by years of travel and research, sampling the teas of over 37 countries.

“I’ve always had a love of tea and I love experimenting with different blends,” Amber tells us.

Source: T Totaler

Source: T Totaler

"We got to a point in our lives when we wanted to give it a go and do something we’re really passionate about,” Amber explains. “We’ve now got over 30 blends of tea that we keep as our regulars and have made over 50 blends in total, often in reaction to what the customers like and request.”

Source: T Totaler

Source: T Totaler

With a passion and skill that has crowned her as one of the best T suppliers in the country, Amber supplies and develops specials flavours for top tier restaurants Bennelong and Momofuku.

“We just got our tea into Bennelong, which is a really big one,” Amber says excitedly. “Chef Peter Gilmore sat down and actually tried our teas. So we’re getting a lot of recognition within the hospitality community including among big chefs.”

Source: T Totaler

Source: T Totaler

Bianca Farmakis