Tricia Cariffe had dreamt about starting a baking business for years before she finally opened her own kitchen space in March.Then she scored a spot at Vista Farmers’ Market in San Diego, and a month ago began making enough money to quit her day job and continue pursuing her dream: Bluespark Baking.
“I’m having a blast,” Cariffe said. “You do what you need to do, and it’s definitely worth it.”
She sells two treats, which she said have a “good versus evil” dynamic.
There are the “good” vegan, wheat-free energy squares designed for athletes that she makes using all natural ingredients without refined sugar. Its “evil” twin are desert pies she bakes from scratch.
In both cases, Cariffe buys almost all the ingredients from local vendors and considers them one of the most important elements of her product.
“I urge people to always look at the ingredients,” she said. “The further away you are from where they come from, the less fresh the overall product will be. It will also have an impact on the shelf life.”
What’s interesting, though, is how much people pay attention to packaging.
For Cariffe, who tries to keep costs down to maintain a low entry point, she spends about 1 to 12 per cent on packaging. One of her bags cost 25 cents.
But she acknowledges that image in the food industry “is huge” and good packaging makes up a big part of it. Many companies, knowing how much people respond to fancy wrapping, choose looks over quality ingredients.
As an example, Tricia pointed to another business that specialises in toffee and used to be at the farmers’ market.
“Toffee is just made of water and sugar,” she said, laughing. But the company probably spends about 80 cents on each box, plus ribbons and then up charges three to four times what it costs to make the toffee itself.
Most retailers price things twice as much as what it costs to produce.
So when analysing the value of products–whether it’s food or something else–she strives for a balance.
“For me I think, ‘Does it really matter?’ Give me a better price and superior product,” said Cariffe. “I don’t need the box and ribbon.”
To her, striking a balance means simple packaging, including “natural materials,” straight lines and an easy-to-open system. It also means keeping overhead costs to about 30 to 40 per cent so she can sell her treats at an affordable price.
The system seems to be working: Cariffe just landed a deal to sell her Sherpa, aka her granola squares, at the Courtyard Marriott in San Diego.
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