Seasonal small businesses: Craft Chocolate, Ice Cream Makers, Breweries, and Bakeries
Seasonal slowdowns can put a huge wrench in the works for business strategies of artisan food businesses. Entrepreneurs who specialize in making craft chocolates, baked goods, ice cream, and frozen desserts know how difficult maintaining a profitable operation is throughout the year. When seasonal fluctuations occur, some small businesses see decreasing revenues. The volatility of demand further highlights the necessity of finding a solution that guarantees sales and a constant revenue streams all year round.
However, small businesses can not only conquer these seasonal downtimes, but can also thrive and continue pulling customers to their establishments. The trick here is not getting bogged down by one particular business, but rather, combining two or more small businesses. All they need is a strong business acumen, some creative ingenuity, and this nifty guide that will show you how to bring it all together.
Some aspects we will be covering are:
- Identify the best seasons for chocolate making, ice cream making, bakeries, and breweries.
- Understand the hindrances and challenges your businesses may face off-season.
- Learn about some tried-and-true methods of combining different small businesses.
- Find creative solutions to make up for sales during slow seasons, such as appealing flavor combinations per season or complementary products to offer.
But before we get into it, it is vital that you have a nutshell view of all the different small businesses that you can combine.
Types of craft businesses we will cover:
Small business owners can stand out from other businesses and overcome seasonal fluctuations if they have one of the four businesses mentioned here. And these four businesses have found immense success by combining their particular skills to create something new and different that customers love!
Craft chocolate makers
Artisan chocolate makers produce unique types of chocolates. Craft chocolate is usually small-batch chocolate created with quality ingredients by small businesses. It usually has different cacao content bars or bonbons, skillfully selected flavors, and a much more demanding audience than the large mass-produced chocolate. They are challenging to produce because they require an experience along with knowledge the different stages of production. They also need to know how to handle different types of cocoa beans, viscosity with cocoa butter, inclusions or flavor combinations, among many other aspects that make a chocolate bar pretty unique.
Craft ice cream makers
These small business owners can offer a variety of flavors that are not available at traditional ice cream stores, and they have the opportunity to experiment with different recipes to create new flavors that are unique to their establishment. Moreover, these small businesses can offer an experience that is not available at traditional ice cream stores, where customers can sample different flavors of ice cream in a more relaxed setting. Artisan ice cream makers can also cater easier to smaller customer bases, such as vegans or allergen-free audiences.
Craft breweries are small, independent breweries that produce a limited or specialty beer. These businesses make their own beer from scratch. Craft breweries brew beer in a variety of styles, but they typically emphasize flavor, quality, and individuality.
Craft bakeries produce artisanal breads and pastries. They are typically in the business of producing high-quality baked goods, such as breads, cakes, pies, pastries, and cookies with wholesome ingredients. Usually, artisan bakeries avoid chemicals and other unhealthy preservatives that large commercial companies use in foodstuff.
Which are the best seasons for these craft businesses?
Craft chocolate making
While chocolates always remain in vogue, there are many who prefer chocolates in certain seasons more than the others.
Best seasons for chocolate making
- Fall. Chocolate sales are at their peak in fall, as it is a perfect time for indulging in all the sugary goodness. There are three main reasons for this. One, people want to make up for the summer months when they have kept away from chocolates and indulged in ice creams, instead. Two, people enjoy celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving with a sweet treat of their choice. And three, there is less competition from other sweets during this time of year.
- Winter. Winter is the next best season for selling craft chocolates. Not only do chocolates taste best in chilly weathers and have chocolate lovers devouring them, but winter also boasts some major holidays in quick succession such as Christmas, New Year, and Valentine’s Day. However, in certain climates where it can get too chilly, people can gravitate towards the hotter end of the chocolate spectrum, and they may prefer sipping on hot cocoa rather than eating chocolates.
- Spring: Spring has Easter and Mother’s Day, so there is plenty of creative products that are appealing as gifts during this season. From Easter bunnies to chocolate flowers, this season usually is still cold enough to avoid melting during deliveries, although some caution needs to be taken for the Southern States.
Craft ice cream making
There are some matches that are made in heaven, and fall/winter and ice creams are not one of them. Some artisan ice cream makers will see their sales slowing down to a crawl during these seasons, but things rebound quickly during spring.
Best seasons for craft ice cream making
- Spring. Spring is a time for happiness, renewal, and new beginnings. As the climate starts to warm up after the coldness of winter, so do the cravings for cold and refreshing desserts. The increase in temperature and longer days make people feel more energetic, which includes going to restaurants and dropping by for ice creams — which can be seen in the increased demand and the sales figures for ice creams. People with a sweet tooth prefer lighter desserts such as ice pops, granita or semifreddo.
- Summer. Summers and ice creams? Now that’s a match made in heaven. Ice creams provide a welcome and refreshing relief from the sweltering heat. Apart from general sales, some artisan ice cream makers also make a killing by providing ice creams at outdoor events like festivals, concerts, and carnivals. Gelatos and frozen yogurt are popular during the summer as quick snacks.
Finding the best season is not as cut and dry with artisan breweries. The flexibility of crafting seasonal beers allows craft brewers to swap their offerings to suit changes in temperatures. With so many various styles and flavors to choose from, craft brewers have a wide range of brews at their disposal. Many of the best ‘seasonals’ are exclusive to the brewery and are only available for a limited time.
Summer and spring are considered the best seasons for craft breweries, followed by Winter and fall.
- Winter. Beer lovers prefer their craft brews dark and strong during winter. Stouts and porters are hot favorites among them, while pale ale and IPA are also popular as they give off a lot of flavors and have some bitterness that balances their sweet flavors.
- Spring. Lighter flavors start to take over during spring, but dark flavors still continue to dominate. Some favorite flavors include a crisp and light fruity taste of a wheat beer, a refreshing taste of a Belgian-style ale, or a full-bodied taste of an IPA. As spring gets warmer, more and more beer lovers gravitate towards lighter craft brews.
- Summer. Light beers are especially popular during the summer, it being the hottest season of the year. Beer lovers seek beers flavored with things like grapefruit, lemonade, berries, and green tea as they are energizing and refreshing and enliven the mood at beach parties and backyard cookouts.
- Fall. Craft beer drinkers tend to favor brews that feature a wide range of unique ingredients, such as a wide range of malts, hops, and spices. Warm and spicy beers like pumpkin ales, amber ales, and Oktoberfest beers make a comeback during the fall, while fruitier ales and lagers take a backseat.
According to data from Google Trends and Google Insights, the best season for a bakery is fall, followed closely by winter. This is because people search more often for pumpkin pie recipes in October than any other month of the year. In contrast, summer is the worst season for a bakery, as people typically go for ice creams more than cakes.
- Fall: When the weather gets cold, people long for the sweet, warm treats that bakeries offer. And once the temperature drops, they develop a craving for sweet munchies such a pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies. The cool air helps set a relaxing mood, which complements the sweet flavors of these treats.
- Winter: Thanksgiving and Christmas are all in the winter, and craft bakeries typically experience high sales. There are several other opportunities to increase bakery sales during the fall and winter.
What are the hindrances seasonal businesses face during off-seasons?
Off-seasons are a tough time for seasonal businesses as many of them suffer from a loss of revenue. Some businesses, particularly those that are new to the scene, may not have solid plans in place for slow seasons. If they haven’t prepared well, they will invariably run into some major problems. There is little chance for these businesses to make up any ground.
Not enough foot traffic
Ice creams lose their charm in cold weathers, as do pastries and pies in summers. Seasonal artisan businesses that don’t prepare themselves for slow seasons may see fewer customers walking through their doors. Retaining customers will be tough but latching on to new ones will be even tougher. The only way seasonal businesses can mitigate the impact of slow seasons is by preparing their infrastructure and altering what their kitchens can offer.
Unsuitable weather conditions
Extreme weather conditions such as heavy snowfall or rain can cause production delays and increased expenses due to difficulties in acquiring ingredients. Craft chocolatiers, ice cream makers, and breweries all depend on seasonal business. It is not just about being open for one particular season but being able to make a profit during that time. In order for these businesses to survive, these companies need to understand weather patterns and plan accordingly.
Slow production times
Seasonal businesses typically produce their products in a specific time frame. If they cannot meet their production demands, they may have to delay their delivery date or even shut down. For instance, rainfall or high humidity are notorious in their impact on baking and chocolate making. Artisan bakeries have to bake their pies and pastries more carefully to avoid their items rising in the oven and then collapsing when they remove them. The slow production times of these seasonal businesses can affect their inventory management and make them prone to falling short on supply.
Limited availability of some ingredients
Extreme summer heat often causes substantial harm to harvests, including issues with hops and barley output. It is not uncommon for craft brewers to face a two-week or longer supply delay due to transportation issues. In a similar vein, when the almond crop is low, the price of almonds will be high, and this will impact the cost of almond chocolate. The result will be a decrease in sales for craft chocolate as well as ice cream makers and brewers who use almonds in their products.
Problems with logistics
The logistics issue of shipping in hot weather can be a major problem for seasonal businesses. For example, when the temperature exceeds 28 degrees Celsius (about 82F), it is difficult to ship chocolates and ice creams while keeping transportation costs down. Shipping in cold weather is not a walk in the park, either. More than half of annual sales happen between November and March, but this period also has the highest incidences of extreme weather conditions like snowstorms and ice storms, causing delays to some perishable items. A lot of these businesses have to deal with shipping during this time, which can be difficult due to bad weather conditions or high demand for products. These logistical issues can hinder artisan food businesses during both their best and slow seasons.
Insufficient demand to produce at high volume
The textbook economics of scale suggests that the more you produce, the less will be your average cost of production and your fixed overhead (rent, wages of employees, etc.). Seasonal businesses often witness a significant decline in their sales and profits due to the lack of demand which hinders their need to produce at high volume. Craft chocolate, artisan ice creams, and craft beer face stiff competition from large food producers when they don’t plan ahead and prepare for slow seasons.
How to combine seasonal, artisanal food-making businesses to sell all year round
Artisan food makers have to deal with the fact that their customers may not be as interested in their products in some seasons, and they have to find other ways to stay afloat. There are many ways of combining artisanal food businesses to sell around the year. The key is to find out what your strengths are and how you can best leverage them to create an even more profitable and sustainable business.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for this type of business, so we will go through some winning combinations among four major artisanal food-making businesses one by one.
In general, here are some possible combinations:
- For brick-and-mortar businesses:
Ice cream maker, smoothies, gelato, frozen yogurt
- For online businesses:
Baking goods (cookies, brownies)
Craft beer/tea/craft sodas and cold beverages
Additionally, here are some ideas to combine these businesses to one single brand in-house seamlessly;
Craft Chocolate Making x Craft Baking
When it comes to combining craft chocolate making with craft baking, knowing your target market is crucial. Consider the type of customer you want to reach with your products and the types of baked foods that are commonly consumed at a given time of year.
Dark chocolates break the ideal middle ground between bitterness and sugary sweetness. It’s a winner with both. But make sure to use high-quality cocoa beans to make your chocolates. They have a complex flavor that adds a chocolate-y depth to most recipes as they release exquisite flavors multiple times — first during roasting, and next during baking.
- Fudges, ganache, mousse made from dark chocolate are a sure shot year-round winners. These desserts are rich in flavor, easy to make and beautifully presentable.
- Chocolate chip cookies laced in almond butter or truffle icing are excellent quick-grab options for summer picnics and camps.
- Chocolate-covered pretzels and nuts get picked off the shelves fairly easily, regardless of the time of the year.
- Hot chocolate provides some delectable warmth in fall and winter, while bringing popcorn and sea salt into the mix turns it into a snack-y drink.
- Caramelized chocolate cake is a moist and delicious cake that is perfect for any season. The beauty of caramelized pineapple chocolate cake lies in its simplicity. The ingredients are all easy to source, and it doesn't require any advanced cooking skills to make.
- Chocolate bread with chocolate chips combines the sweetness of the chocolate with the chewiness of bread, making it a perfect combination for any dessert or snack.
Craft Chocolate Making x Ice Cream Making
Chocolate and ice cream are two of the world's most popular desserts. Combining them is an innovative idea that has been gaining traction lately. The combination of these two ingredients gives you a taste of the highest quality and flavor. They complement each other in taste, texture, and appearance. The richness is not too overpowering, but it still leaves you wanting more. Chocolate and ice cream lovers alike — particularly kids — go wild over this combination.
- Chocolate ice cream truffles are the best way to combine craft chocolate with artisan ice creams. They are a perfect match because they can be eaten alone or put together in a sundae for an even more delightful experience to customers.
- Chocolates, ice creams and hazelnut tastes divine when combined, cakes like Hazelnut Praline ice cream with a dark chocolate or chocolate chips remain in demand throughout the year.
- Chocolate sauce drizzle on a host of ice cream flavors can get customers salivating. Cherry, pineapple, strawberry, vanilla, hazelnut — name any flavor of ice cream in the world — chocolate sauce goes most with all of them.
Craft baking x ice cream making
Craft bakeries and artisan ice cream makers have very similar business models, which makes it easier for owners to transition between each other or even merge them. Craft bakers can get creative with their products and blending them with ice creams have a wide variety of flavors to choose from that they can experiment with. Together, they create unique flavors that can't be found anywhere else.
- Ice cream cakes create a delicious combination of flavors and textures that create an indulgent taste sensation. Blueberry, Strawberry, Lemon Meringue Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough — the possibilities are endless.
- Sell desserts of all kinds, not just ice creams. The trick here is to stop limiting yourself to selling just ice cream in the winter; and shift your focus to selling desserts in general, such as freshly baked pies. You can also offer your customers a choice of getting a dollop of ice cream on top of your cakes or pies. For most part, recipes call for the same kinds of things, even if the end result will be served at a different temperature. You're still peddling the same stuff, only in a different package. If you want to ensure everyone's satisfaction, satisfy their sweet tooth.
- Sell cookies, pies, brownies, or cobblers; these sweets go great with a scoop of ice cream. Any of these tasty sweets would be perfect with the corresponding ice cream flavors. Customers will want to try a warm treat paired with your best scoop of ice cream because of these varieties.
Craft brewing x Craft baking
Craft breweries don’t have it as cut and dry as other artisan food making. It requires some creativity and ingenuity, but once you hit the sweet spot — the outcome can be phenomenal.
Pairing up certain beers with certain desserts can toss a delightful surprise at your customers.
- Cheesecake with Belgian Ale. Belgian ale has notes of banana, clove, and citrus flavors which can be found in most cheesecakes. The marriage between Belgian Ale and cheesecake goes well together because both have strong flavors which complement each other well.
- Chocolate desserts with stouts. A rich and flavorful stout beer can be paired with a chocolate dessert such as fondant or brownies during winters. The chocolate can balance out the bitterness of the beer, while also providing a rich and creamy texture for both.
- Carrot cake with IPA. This apparently offbeat pairing is really about striking a healthy balance between IPA's hoppy and bitter flavors and the sweetness of the carrot cake. A sip from a beer followed by a piece of the cake will tickle your customers' taste buds in a way they had never thought possible.
Craft brewing x ice cream making
Pairing craft beers with ice creams is quite the rage these days, and for good reasons. This oddball combination of sweet and savory can get your cash registers ringing even in spring and summer.
- Butterscotch and sour beers. Ice cream is a perfect match with a wide variety of beer styles, in particular sour beers. Sour beers are made with yeast, which creates an acidic flavor profile that is similar to that of sour fruits like lemons and limes. Some beer styles also have a pronounced fruit flavor component, such as cherry or raspberry flavors in some IPAs. The creaminess of the ice cream provides a nice contrast to these fruit flavors and helps make them more pronounced.
- Brownie sundaes and stouts. Stout beers are dark and rich. Brownie sundaes are light, sweet, and chocolatey. Stouts have perfect amount of sweetness in them and complement the brownie sundae well, which is why this combination tastes wonderful.
- Vanilla ice cream with a chocolate stout: This combination will enthrall all your chocolate-loving customers out there. A dark, creamy, and rich-tasting dessert with a rich and thick beer to contrast it.
Things to consider before combining seasonal small businesses
Entrepreneurs who own more than one type of craft food-making enterprises already have most things set up. But for those that are planning to add a new craft food-making venture, there are some things worth considering before taking the plunge.
Additional investment in equipment
It’s imperative that taking on the challenge of adding new craft food business into yours will require some additional investment to pull it off. Craft chocolate making requires investment in tempering machines and cocoa bean grinder; craft baking can’t be done without ovens with steam injectors or mixers with dough cyclers; fermenters, kegs, and boilers for craft brewery; and deep freezers and refrigerators for ice cream-making.
Additional investment in skills
Artisan food making is as much a science as it’s an art. Entrepreneurs may not be initially well-equipped with skills and techniques that lie outside their primary domains, and they may have to upskill themselves or bring in people who already possess the required skills. They also may have to train their current staff about the do’s and the don’ts of operating new equipment.
Stocking main ingredients
The whole idea behind this endeavor is to keep bringing in customers even during slow seasons. Stocking up on flour, yeast, cocoa, barley or any other ingredients essential to keep your enterprise running like clockwork is vital. It’s also a good idea to always have a month-worth of reserve stock to account for availability issues or transportation delays due to any unforeseen event.
Rebrand and reposition your business
When seasonal businesses combine, they need to change their branding and reposition themselves to stay relevant in the market. This is where a rebranding comes in. It helps a company to refresh its brand and update its marketing strategy. Rebranding and repositioning will let your customers know that you are now offering a variety of food products.
- The business plans of artisan food enterprises are often derailed by seasonal downturns.
- The owners of enterprises that make handmade chocolates, baked products, ice cream, and frozen sweets understand the difficulties of keeping a consistent profit throughout the year.
- Some local companies may see a drop in sales as a result of seasonal changes.
- The need to develop a solution to assure year-round sales and a constant cash stream is emphasized by the erratic nature of demand.
- Even though sales may be slower at certain times of the year, small shops may nevertheless succeed.
- There are times of the year when consumers are less enthusiastic about purchasing artisanal foods, forcing those who make these dishes to look elsewhere for financial stability.
- Numerous opportunities exist for artisanal food enterprises to collaborate, increasing sales throughout the year.
- The secret is to figure out what you're good at and build on it to make your company successful in the long run.
- Consider merging several small enterprises rather than relying on any one of them too heavily.
- Creative problem-solving is all that's needed to make up for revenue lost during sluggish seasons.