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Setting up a preserve business do's and don'ts

As the New Year approaches I have decided to share some of the simple do's and don'ts I have learnt in setting up the business to help inspire those who are looking for jobs in this area.  Every week I get inquiries but we are tiny and unable to help other than the help I can provide here.

How to set up in business

This is a low cost entry business which should be started in a local market, school fete or through selling to friends.

Initially you can even use recycled jars and wax discs to reduce your outlay although investigate the cost of new jars and lids to factor this into your pricing.

Only make something you want to eat yourself, if you aren't crazy about it why would anyone else be.  Be prepared to back up your belief in the product by offering samples.

When working out the cost of your product factor in your time at £6.10/hour (min wage) ie how long it takes you to prep, make,  bottle and label it.  Add in the cost of the ingredients, jars, lids and a few pence towards heat and light.  Give yourself a profit margin, usually 40%  Work out the cost of a batch then divide between the number of jars produced.  This should be your wholesale price if you ever supply shops.

If you are selling on a stall you have to pay the stall rent and cover your time behind the stall.  In the first place you can team up with a friend, hopefully selling something else, to cut both these costs.  Once the stall has started you could do alternative days/weeks, remember that by being on a stall you can't be cooking.  The costs of  your time and rent must be covered in your retail price usually a 40% increase over your wholesale price.  This also means that as you become successful the stall price will be the same as the shop price.

Find your USP unique selling point and shout about it.  Mine is the use of local fruit, small batch size, hand cutting of marmalade from fresh few do this now and for economic reasons for example

A tin of pre-processed shredded oranges for marmalade costs the same, sometimes less, than a box of seville oranges which takes 8 hours to prepare by hand BUT it tastes soooooo much better let your customers know why yours cost more, let them taste the difference.  A recipe is on my website if you want to try.

Don't be disheartened if at first you don't sell well, it takes time to build a customer base.  If no one likes a product find one they do BUT trust your own instincts and taste buds this is a crowded market and you can always eat unsold stock or give it as presents.

Register your business with your Local Authority if you begin to trade, you will need to be checked by Environmental Health.

Get insurance, the Market Traders Federation has the most cost effective insurance covering anything sold from a market stall BUT it will not cover you for selling to shops or over the internet.  Check out the costs and make sure you are covered, you are selling food albeit a fairly safe one with chutneys etc but eggs , meat etc have health implications if not handled correctly.....same goes for jam.

Speak to Trading Standards, our local branch is very helpful, they will pre- check your labelling and provide free guidance on legal  labelling requirements, percentages of fruit for example and how to calculate them.

Some markets have a WI stall who will sell your cakes or chutneys for you for a percentage, this route may ease you in if you don't have the initial confidence for direct selling.  Contact them directly, they are always a nice bunch when on an adjacent stall.

This is a crowded market as anyone can make preserves by following a recipe so you will have to work hard to rise above the rest BUT the entry costs are low, you can try without losing the day job which maybe looking after the children and if you enjoy cooking at the very least you will be filling your friends and family with proper tasty preserves.

Investigate the local competition there is only so much a jar of preserves can cost, if your cost is too expensive, look to smarter ways to cook to cut the labour costs ie more batches on rotation.  Your time is the most expensive ingredient.

Good Luck, the above covers my initial thoughts, if anyone wants a bit more I will try to help, cooking permitting. Others will have a different slant, investigate your possibilities, compare costs of ingredients and the local competition before jumping.

Have a Happy and entrepreneurial  New Year!

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  • I would like to improve on my jam making business by using equipment such as a Filler / bottles with sealer lids/ label maker etc. PLEASE could you advise where to purchase same in UK or Germany. I watched a TV a German lady in Scotland impressive but no contact

  • Thank you for this. A couple of questions:
    Like Gloria asked, how do you preserve for long shelf life?
    And following up on John’s question, what labelling is required on jams?
    Finally, can you share where you get your jars made with the enamel labelling?
    Really appreciate your time in sharing your wisdom and knowledge.

  • Hi, this is great thank you. Do you need to do any food health & safety course if cooking from your own kitchen?


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