A Complete Guide to Selling Microgreens & Starting a Microgreens Business
(Disclaimer: this is not intended to be business or health advice, this is just our opinion)
We usually don't cover the sales aspect of Microgreens, primarily because we stopped selling our Microgreens in 2019 to pursue our true passion - Content Creation, Sharing our growing experiences, and Products. In fact, since 2019, we have been giving away all our produce for free to friends and family or consuming it ourselves. However, we've received so many inquiries on this subject that we believe that an in-depth blog post is needed.
To begin, we will provide some insights into microgreens and the reasons behind the growing interest in selling them. We will introduce you to the world of selling microgreens and highlight important considerations. Following that, we will dive into the pricing of microgreens, the requirements for selling them, and finally, the topic of selling microgreens labeled as “organic”.
Section 1: What are Microgreens & why sell them?
What Are Microgreens?
Before delving into the business aspect, let's clarify what microgreens are. Microgreens are young (typically 7-14days), edible plants harvested at the cotyledon or true leaf stage. They're packed with flavor and nutrients, making them a popular choice for garnishes, salads, smoothies and more. Microgreens come in a variety of flavors and colors, including peppery arugula, basil, spicy radish, and nutty sunflower, adding both aesthetic appeal and taste to dishes. Not to mention they are speculated to contain an abundance of nutrients, making them an easy addition to a healthy diet!
Several factors contribute to the popularity of growing microgreens to sell:
- Rapid Growth: Microgreens have a short growth cycle, typically ranging from 7 to 21 days. This quick turnaround means you can harvest and sell multiple batches each month, increasing your potential profit when compared to regular vegetables.
- High Demand: The demand for fresh, locally sourced, and organic produce is on the rise. Microgreens are sought after by restaurants, health-conscious consumers, and farmers' markets because they can be grown Organically.
- Nutrient Dense: Many people fall in love with microgreens, not only because they are tasty & easy to use, but they are also said to boast an impressive amount of nutrients for their tiny sizes.
- Small Space Requirement: Not only can Microgreens be grown indoors on a windowsill, but they can also be grown abundantly in a small space. For instance, we grew in a 160 sq-ft space for 3 years. In that space we could grow well over 144 trays (6 grow racks with 24 trays each) at a time. Depending on the variety & grow method, if we only grew Broccoli Microgreens and met our average harvest weight per-tray, that’s roughly 110 pounds of Broccoli Microgreens per 11 to 16 days. This makes them an ideal option for urban dwellers or those with limited space.
Section 2: Introduction into Selling Microgreens
Starting to sell microgreens can be a rewarding venture for new & seasoned entrepreneurs in the gardening world, whether you're looking to sell to friends and family, local consumers, restaurants, or through online channels. Here's a step-by-step guide on the best way to get started selling microgreens:
- Learn About Microgreens:
- Start by gaining knowledge about different types of microgreens, growing methods, and best practices to fit your lifestyle. Experiment with growing microgreens at home to develop your skills and understand the nuances of their cultivation. Consider all grow options to determine what works best for you, i.e. - hydroponics versus soil, indoor versus outdoor. etc.
We personally lean towards hydroponic growing because we find it to be easier, cleaner, and more fun for us to grow ours this way. However, others absolutely crush using soil methods!
If you'd like to learn more about hydroponic microgreens & growing microgreens, we have tons of videos on our YouTube: On The Grow. We even have more blogs here on our website too, and we will link the most important resources at the bottom of this blog!
- Identify Your Niche:
- Determine your target market. Are you selling to local consumers, restaurants, or retailers? Knowing your audience will help you tailor your products and marketing strategies.
Whenever we sold microgreens, we started with farmers markets, built an email list from our market sales, then moved into DTC (direct to consumer) sales within our city/neighborhood. Then eventually, we had chefs from multiple local restaurants & neighboring cities approaching us to sell to them. Despite the many offers, our love is learning and teaching, so we began giving all produce away, as we have now done since 2019.
- Choose Microgreen Varieties:
- Select microgreen varieties based on market demand, flavor profiles, and your growing capabilities. Consider popular varieties like broccoli, radish, peas, and sunflower, and more visually stunning options like amaranth or nasturtium to stand out. Reach out to local chefs, and research your local restaurants and grocery stores to see if there are any potential opportunities to grow and sell!
- Set Up Your Growing Space:
- Create a suitable growing environment, whether it's in a greenhouse, converted basemen, etc... Ensure proper lighting, temperature, and humidity control. Just remember that if you plan to sell them, make sure you are taking the proper action to provide produce in a clean & safe manner. Your grow space should be well kept, and up-to any local codes/requirements for growing & selling produce.
If your unsure about what you’ll need to do, in most cases you can contact your local health department and ask questions, or even reach out to your local farmers market and ask them what is required to sell with them. When we sold in Lucas, TX, we were required to have a registered business with the state of Texas and Food Handlers Licenses. The reason being is that we sold items that aren’t considered perishable here, such as milk, eggs & meat. So, they didn’t require anything special. Mind you, if we were to have sold to grocery stores or restaurants, we may have had more things to acquire before we could do so, legally. (there’s a section later in this blog that goes more in depth on this topic)
- Source Quality Seeds:
- Purchase high-quality, organic seeds from reputable suppliers. Seed quality plays a crucial role in the success of your microgreens. Consider buying in bulk. Its a higher up-front cost, however, costs less in comparison to buying seeds multiple times.
(Here’s our affiliate link to the company we have used for years: Tap Here)
- Experiment and Perfect Your Technique:
- Practice growing microgreens to perfect your technique and achieve consistent results in terms of taste, appearance, and yield. You have to remember that you are dealing with LIVING organisms, and sometimes you might face yourself with an unexpected issue. Its better to know how to jump over the hurdle, than face it the first time right before you need to sell them!
- Develop a Business Plan:
- Create a business plan that outlines your goals, budget, production capacity, pricing strategy, and marketing plan. Start small but dream big.
- Come up with a business name that fits your personality, as well as your niche and/or farm and remember to do the proper business name and/or logo investigation to make sure you can legally use that name and or logo. For instance, we have our name, logo & slogan legally trademarked to further protect our brand. Meaning that others cannot use the same, similar sounding names/ logo /slogans. While its not necessary for most people to invest in trademarks, we did so because of the type of business we are, and want to become. With that being said, always research to prevent legal troubles.
- Obtain Necessary Permits and Certifications:
- As discussed earlier in #4 Setting Up Your Grow Space, check local regulations and acquire any necessary permits or licenses for selling food products. If you plan to label your microgreens as organic, consider obtaining an organic certification, we’ll discuss this further in this blog.
Set Up a Sales Channel:
a. Farmers' Markets: Reserve a booth at local farmers' markets to connect with consumers directly. Consider doing what we did and set up an optional email list that people can fill out with their names & email and opt in to receiving emails from your business! This is a great way to build Direct-to-Consumer sales of your greens.
b. Restaurants and Cafes: Contact local restaurants and cafes to inquire about their interest in purchasing fresh microgreens.
c. Online Sales: Establish an online presence through a website or social media to reach a broader audience.
d. Local Retailers: Approach local grocery stores or specialty food shops to explore the possibility of supplying them with your microgreens.
e. Office Buildings: Office buildings can be FILLED with hungry people looking for healthy options, consider reaching out to them or leaving business cards.
f. Distribution: In some cases, you may be able to find distributors in your local area that will buy your produce in bulk, for a lower price, and then resale it for you to their list of chefs and customers.
- Packaging and Presentation:
- Invest in attractive and eco-friendly packaging that keeps your microgreens fresh and visually appealing. Presentation is key, but we also like to try and minimize our impact on local trash by choosing eco-friendly materials.
- Marketing and Promotion:
- Use social media, local advertising, and word-of-mouth to promote your microgreens. Highlight their freshness, flavor, and health benefits. Smart phones are easy ways to take beautiful photos, just make sure they are well lit, and in-focus! Remember to use proper hashtags too! If you have trouble with social media, do some research on social media to see whose posts are trending and see how they post and what tags they use. Don’t get discouraged if at first it is slow… remember, the tortoise wins the race.
- Build Relationships:
- Develop strong relationships with customers, chefs, and retailers. Be responsive to feedback and strive for excellent customer service. Under-promise and over-deliver. Set high standards for yourself, your business and your greens and others will take notice.
- Monitor and Adapt:
- Continuously monitor your sales, customer feedback, and market trends. Be willing to adapt your product offerings and strategies as needed. Your ability to adapt and flow can make a big difference in how your business does.
- Scale Gradually:
- As your business grows and you gain experience, consider scaling your microgreens production to meet increasing demand. Just don’t leap in so far that you feel un-happy. Again, starting small is usually the easiest way to get your feet wet and we are big advocates of telling people to grow a few trays for several weeks to see if they enjoy it before committing to more. A thriving business is a business that has good energy from both the owners & consumers stand points.
Starting to sell microgreens is a journey that requires dedication, patience, and a commitment to quality. Take your time, do your research, grow some greens and eventually one day… you may find yourself running a successful business growing microgreens to sell to your local community.
(See video at end of blog to hear even more about our experience of selling Microgreens at a farmers market.)
Section 3: Pricing Microgreens for Profit
Now that we’ve discussed everything from the basics of what microgreens are, to starting a microgreens business, lets now look into how to price your Microgreens.
Pricing your microgreens right is a crucial aspect of running a successful microgreens business. These tiny greens pack a punch in terms of flavor and nutrition, making them a hot commodity among health-conscious consumers and chefs alike. Here are some key considerations to help you find the sweet spot for pricing your microgreens.
- Cost of Production: Start by calculating your production costs. This includes expenses for seeds, soil, trays, water, utilities, and labor. Knowing your costs will help you avoid under-pricing and ensure a reasonable profit margin.
- Market Research: As we have mentioned in the past, as well as earlier in this blog, you should always research your local market to understand the price range for microgreens. This will give you insights into what customers are willing to pay and help you remain competitive.
- Quality Matters: High-quality microgreens can command a premium price. Focus on consistent growth, appearance, and taste to justify a higher price point. When it comes down to it, people are willing to pay a higher price for something that feels of good quality. Just remember whiles it’s good to know your worth, its also not good to over-price things simply to make more profit.
- Quantity Discounts: Consider offering discounts for larger quantities. This can encourage bulk purchases from restaurants and regular customers. Whenever we would sell DTC (direct-to-consumer) using wide mouth mason jars, we offered discounts when people returned the original jars.
Packaging: Invest in attractive and eco-friendly packaging. A well-presented product can justify a slightly higher price. You can even have fun and add in edible flowers, or herbs to make it exciting!
- Value-Added Products: Explore creating value-added products like mixed microgreen blends or curated chef's selections to diversify your offerings and increase the perceived value. You can even create your own spice blends too.
- Seasonal Variations: Be flexible with your pricing to accommodate seasonal variations in supply and demand. Adjust your prices accordingly to meet customer expectations.
- Customer Feedback: Pay attention to customer feedback. If customers consistently find value in your microgreens, you may have room to adjust your pricing upwards. Customer feedback is always a major key to success.
- Competitors: This is part of business and competition is healthy, in most cases! Be mindful that someone may be competing with you to get that sale, so taking care of your current and new customers is vital.
- Trial and Error: Don't be afraid to adjust your pricing as you gain experience and gather data. A little trial and error can help you find the optimal price point for your microgreens.
In the end, pricing microgreens is a balance between covering your costs, offering a high-quality product, and staying competitive in your market. By considering these factors and staying attuned to your customers' needs and preferences, you can set a price that not only sustains your business but also allows it to thrive in the ever-growing market for microgreens.
The most common price for selling microgreens can vary widely depending on several factors, including location, type of microgreens, quality, and market demand. For instance, in 2021 The standard for microgreens looked something like this:
- Standard Microgreens: Common varieties like radish, sunflower, and pea shoots were often sold for approximately $1 to $3 per ounce or $20 to $40 per pound.
- Specialty or Gourmet Microgreens: Unique or gourmet varieties, such as amaranth, shiso, and red veined sorrel, could command higher prices, often ranging from $3 to $8 or more per ounce.
- Organic Microgreens: Organic microgreens were typically priced higher due to the cost of organic certification and sustainable growing practices. Prices could range from $1.50 to $4 per ounce or more.
- Bulk Purchases: Some sellers offered discounts for bulk purchases, catering to restaurants and other wholesale buyers who might buy larger quantities.
- Variety Packs: Sellers often packaged mixed microgreens or variety packs and charged a premium for the assortment.
Again, keep in mind that these prices are general estimates, and some areas are way higher or even lower. When we sold our Microgreens we aimed to try to get a minimum of $20-25/tray. We know that we use all organic ingredients and put a lot of care and time into our Microgreens and brand, so we know they fetch a higher value. In our local area there were local growers that sold their Microgreens for $5.00+ for 4oz of product at nearby farmers markets.
Section 4: What is required to sell Microgreens?
This is a topic that we get asked about often and thought it would be good to cover in this blog. While it does look like a lot, it’s actually quite simple and easy to get started selling microgreens. To sell microgreens, you'll need to take several steps to ensure that your business complies with local regulations and operates smoothly. Be mindful, this list is an idea, your local area may have more or less requirements. Here's a list of common requirements to start selling microgreens:
- Business Registration: Depending on your location, you may need to register your microgreens business with the appropriate government authorities. This could involve obtaining a business license or registering your business as a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation.
- Permits and Licenses: Check local and state regulations to determine if you need any specific permits or licenses to sell food products, even if you're only selling at farmers' markets or online.
- Food Safety Compliance: Ensure that your microgreens comply with food safety regulations. This may involve following guidelines for handling, packaging, and storing your microgreens to prevent contamination.
- Organic Certification (if applicable): If you want to label & market your microgreens as "organic," you may need to obtain organic certification through a recognized certifying agency in your country.
- Market-Specific Regulations: Be aware of any regulations or guidelines specific to the markets or venues where you plan to sell your microgreens, such as farmers' markets, restaurants, or online marketplaces.
- Tax Identification Number: Obtain a tax identification number or employer identification number (EIN) from the tax authorities to handle tax reporting and payment.
- Insurance: Consider obtaining liability insurance to protect your business in case of unforeseen incidents or accidents.
- Record-Keeping: Establish a system for tracking your expenses, income, and inventory. Accurate record-keeping is essential for tax purposes and business management.
- Quality Control: Implement quality control measures to ensure that your microgreens are consistently fresh, clean, and free from contaminants.
It's essential to research and understand the specific requirements and regulations in your area, as they can vary widely by location. Consulting with local business associations, agricultural extension offices, or regulatory agencies can provide valuable guidance and ensure that you meet all legal and safety requirements for selling microgreens.
For instance, in the city of Lucas, Texas, in 2019, to sell Microgreens at the local farmers market we had to call our Local Health Department and ask questions and find out if we needed any particular certifications. This helped us learn that we needed to have.
- A Business registered with the state.
- Up to date Food handlers permits (especially if we wanted to hand out samples)
- Correct labeling on packaging that shows; Date harvested, When to use by (typically within 1 week), our business name/logo, Crop Name, etc.
- We opened an LLC, as well as got business insurance.
- Keeping a well maintained & sanitized space.
The local health department was also able to inform us that in our area Microgreens fall under what’s called the “Cottage Food Law”, so special requirements aren’t needed as its not a perishable product such as Meat, Eggs, and Milk. You can even ask your local farmers market what their requirements are to sell, and in most cases, they can help point you in the right direction.
Section 5: Selling Microgreens Labeled As Organic
We see often on social media, sellers who market their Microgreens as Organic. While this may be true that they are in fact grown organically, using organic practices, you should always make sure that you aren’t labeling without the correct certifications in place. Selling microgreens labeled as "Organic" without proper certification is not advisable and may lead to legal and reputational issues. Organic certification is a regulated process designed to ensure that products labeled as "Organic" meet specific standards for organic farming practices. These standards often include using organic seeds, avoiding synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and adhering to sustainable agricultural practices.
In the United States, for example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the National Organic Program (NOP), which sets strict guidelines for organic certification. To label your microgreens as "Organic," you typically need to go through the certification process, which involves inspections, record-keeping, and compliance with organic standards. In most cases they even send out a specialist to view your practices in person.
If you're interested in selling organic microgreens, it's essential to go through the proper certification process to ensure that your products meet the organic standards recognized in your region or country. This not only demonstrates your commitment to organic practices but also helps you build trust with customers who seek organic products. And in the long run, could potentially save you from running into any legal issues.
Acquiring organic certification for selling microgreens involves following a specific process to ensure that your growing practices meet the organic standards established by the relevant certifying body in your country or region. Here are the general steps to obtain organic certification for your microgreens:
- Understand Organic Standards:
- Research and familiarize yourself with the organic standards and regulations specific to your country or region. In the United States, for example, you would refer to the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) regulations.
- Transition Period:
- If your microgreen production has not been organic previously, there may be a transition period during which you must use organic practices without using prohibited synthetic chemicals. This period can vary depending on the certifying body.
- Choose a Certifying Agency:
- Contact a reputable organic certifying agency or organization in your area. These agencies are responsible for verifying that your microgreens meet organic standards. In the United States, some examples of accredited certifying agencies include CCOF, Oregon Tilth, and QAI.
- Complete the Application:
- Submit an application to the certifying agency of your choice. The application will typically include information about your microgreen operation, including your production methods, inputs, and land management practices.
- On-Site Inspection:
- The certifying agency will conduct an on-site inspection of your microgreen operation. During the inspection, they will assess your adherence to organic standards, record-keeping practices, and any potential sources of contamination.
- Documentation and Records:
- Maintain detailed records of your microgreen production practices, including seed sources, soil amendments, pest control methods, and harvesting practices. These records will be essential for the certification process.
- Compliance and Corrections:
- Address any issues or deficiencies identified during the inspection. The certifying agency may provide you with a list of corrections or improvements that need to be made to meet organic standards.
- Certification Approval:
- Once your microgreen operation is in compliance with organic standards, the certifying agency will grant you organic certification.
- Labeling and Documentation:
- After obtaining certification, you can label your microgreens as "Organic." Ensure that your packaging, marketing materials, and documentation comply with organic labeling regulations.
- Annual Renewal:
- Organic certification is typically valid for one year. You will need to undergo an annual inspection and renewal process to maintain your organic certification.
Remember that the certification process may vary depending on your location and the certifying agency you choose. It's essential to work closely with your chosen certifying agency, follow their guidelines, and maintain accurate records to ensure a smooth certification process for your microgreens. Once certified, you can market your microgreens as organic, catering to consumers who seek organic and sustainably grown produce.
There is also another label program called “Certified Naturally Grown” which may be worth looking into!
Well, y’all, we've covered just about everything we could think of for those who are contemplating the idea of entering the world of selling microgreens and starting their microgreens business. While it might appear to be quite a lot to take in, once you embark on the journey and find your rhythm, it tends to become more manageable than it initially appears. We hope that this blog has shed some light on the subject, perhaps even sparking a few "ah-ha" moments or providing you with greater clarity.
More resourcesBlog: Professional Grow Rack Setup
Blog: How to clean & Sanitize Trays
Blog: How to dispose of Microgreen Leftovers
Blog: What is Damping Off?
Blog: How to Grow Microgreens (1020 trays)
Blog: How to Grow Microgreens (Sprouting Trays)
Blog: Choosing Nutrients & Ratios
Video Playlist: How to Grow Microgreens
Video Playlist: Getting Started with Microgreens
Free Seeding Guide: Download