Selling Grocery and Gourmet Foods on Amazon and eBay Vision-One Press 2014

Vision-One Press
Selling Grocery and Gourmet Foods on
Amazon and eBay
By: Skip McGrath
Copyright 2014, by Skip McGrath and Vision-One Press, 1004 Commercial Ave, PMB 223,
Anacortes, WA 98221. All rights reserved. This book does not come with resale rights and may
not be resold or reprinted in any form without the express permission of the author. Short quotes
from the book are allowed for publicity purposes.
Table of Contents
The Legal Stuff ~ ……………………………………………………………….. 3
Introduction ~ ………………………………………………………………….. 4
Chapter 1 ~ Know The Rules……………………………………………... 6
Chapter 2 ~ Locally Sourced Gourmet Foods ……………………… 9
Chapter 3 ~ Buying From Manufacturers & Distributors ……. 12
Chapter 4 ~ Selling Strategies ……………………………………………. 15
Chapter 5 ~ Researching and Selling on eBay …………………… 18
Chapter 6 ~ Conclusions ……………………………………………………. 23
About the author
Skip McGrath ~ eBay, Amazon & Website Seller, Author and Trainer
Skip McGrath and his wife Karen began selling on eBay in 1999 and expanded to selling on
Amazon in 2006. Skip is the publisher of the Online Sellers News for eBay and Amazon
Sellers, the oldest and largest eZine for online resellers. He is also the author of 17 books
about online business and selling on eBay, Amazon and from websites, blogs and social
Prior to starting his eBay business Skip had a 25-year career in international marketing and
held executive positions at two Fortune 100 companies. He also started a number of
businesses including a microwave component business in Silicon Valley and a highly
successful antique shop in the Hudson Valley of New York.
Skip and his wife Karen still sell on eBay and Amazon every day and Skip is still writing and
publishing newsletters, books and blogs at the Online Sellers Resource.
The Legal Stuff
This book contains statements and claims relating to how much money one can make using
these methods. Please understand that these are estimates and projections. The exact
amount you can make will depend on your talent, your experience, and how hard you work
at it.
New Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations effective in January 2010 require that if I
state any amount of money I have made, or someone using these methods has made, then I
have to state the “average” amount of money that everyone who bought this book made.
Well, as you can imagine, I would have no way of knowing that!
So to comply with the law, let me say that although I and other people have made differing
amounts of money with these methods: “The ‘average’ person who bought this book made
less than one-cent ($0.01).”
I have no way of knowing if you are ‘average” or not. So as you read examples about the
amount of sales and money made, please keep that statement in mind.
All websites and URLs in this book are current at the time of publication. However, websites
change, may be taken down, or moved. Neither the publisher, nor the author are
responsible for the content contained in any website mentioned or featured in this book,
nor shall they be liable for any loss or damage arising from the information contained in this
book. As with anything you do in life there is no substitute for good judgment.
This book may contain links to websites that may offer products and/or services for sale.
Some of these websites pay me a commission if you make a purchase through my link.
However, I wish to assure you that I only recommend products and services that I use, or
have used, and ones that come with a complete refund. If you ever have difficulty getting a
refund from any product I recommend, please contact me and I will assist you. My policy on
affiliate links is: “If I wouldn’t recommend it to my mother or my sister I won’t recommend
it to anyone else.”
eBay and the eBay logo, Amazon and the Amazon logo, and any other logos are the property
of those companies. All references to eBay, Amazon and other trademarked websites or
properties are used in accordance with the Fair Use Doctrine and are not meant to imply
that this book is endorsed for advertising or other commercial purposes or properties.
Print / Copy Shop Notice:
Copy shops may make one copy for the personal use of the reader. If a copy shop requires
specific permission, they can email me at [email protected]
The Gourmet Food category on eBay & Amazon is huge and growing. This is an excellent
niche for a small seller with limited start-up funds. There are several ways to source food
Retail Arbitrage – buying from local stores such as Trader Joes, Sam’s Club, Costco
and Big Lots, etc.
Buying from local suppliers at Farmer’s Markets and Street Fairs
Buying from local Food Distributors
Create your own food product
A general search of the Grocery and Gourmet Food category shows 564,714 for sale on
Amazon. When you go to the main Food category on Amazon, Amazon now shows you the
various sub-categories. Here are the following Food sub-categories they now show.
Canned Goods
Baby Food
Candy & Chocolates
Flowers & Gifts
Pasta & Sides
Then Amazon further breaks each category down into sub-categories. For example the
Baking category is broken down into
So as you can see there are a wide variety of foods you can both source and sell on Amazon.
The first item I sold in the food category was smoked salmon. My wife and I were shopping
at Costco about three weeks before Thanksgiving two years ago. I passed a display of
smoked salmon. The product was a 1.5-pound slab of Pacific Northwest hot smoked salmon
and it was selling for $17. Since we live in the Northwest, I know how expensive smoked
salmon is so I used my iPhone to look up smoked salmon on Amazon. No one had the same
brand Costco was selling, but 1-pound packs in other brands were selling on Amazon for
between $29 and $42.95. Karen and I looked at each other and I said, “Shall we give this a
“Why not?” She said
So we loaded up the cart with 24 packages at $17 each – total $408. We sent them into FBA
and they got there about two weeks before Thanksgiving. I listed them at $41.95, which
netted us around $33.15 after Amazon FBA fees and commissions ( a profit of $16.15 per
unit). Within 3 days of arriving at Amazon’s warehouse they started selling and within one
week, almost half of them were gone.
At that point, we rushed back to Costco. The price was so good that Costco was selling out
fast. They only had one case of 48 left, so we took the whole case. Between then and
Christmas every single box sold except one. By January 5th or so I still had the one box left,
so I lowered the price to $39 on that one box and it sold within a day or so.
On the second trip to Costco, the other thing we saw was a three-pack of Starbucks Cocoa. I
can’t remember the price – I think my cost was somewhere around $12 for the 3-pack. We
put a case of 24 on Amazon and they also sold out before Christmas. If my memory serves
me right, I think we were selling them for about $27.95.
That was it. We were hooked. At first all we did was source food from Costco, but one day I
noticed that several sellers were selling items from Trader Joes. We have a Trader Joes
about one hour away, so one day we drove up there and spent about $500 on stuff to sell.
We bought organic dog treats, shampoo and conditioner, dried mangos and several other
things and did very well with all of them.
By springtime, our local farmer’s market was open again. Every time we went there we
would find some local merchant selling a jam they made, or honey or spice rubs and one
fellow was a local fisherman selling a very high grade of troll caught smoked Tuna. That is
when I began doing something I am going to teach you later – how to negotiate exclusive
selling arrangements for eBay and Amazon with these local suppliers. Within a few weeks I
had over 20 different products selling on Amazon where we were the only seller.
The next thing that happened to us was a trip to the Seattle Gift show. Now I have been to
that show numerous times and there is always a section of the show for gourmet food
companies. In the past we walked through the food section just to hit the free snacks the
dealers were sampling. But, now we were looking for products to sell. This got me started
buying direct from small food manufacturers. Some of the manufacturers used distributors
who were there at the show, so we got to meet them too. I now have a file of over 20
manufacturers and food distributors I deal with.
So hang on and be patient. I have learned a lot about the food business on Amazon and I am
about to share it with you.
Chapter one
Know The Rules
Amazon has a lot of special rules related to selling food products, and there are best
practices. Although not rules; if you treat the best practices as such you will make more
money. So here we go:
What you can sell – You can only sell packaged food products on Amazon that do not need
freezing or refrigeration. 1 Food must also have current expiration dates. This is explained
Licenses – You do not need any special type of license to sell gourmet food as long as it is
already in a retail package. You only need special licenses if you are manufacturing or
bottling the food.
Sales Tax – One of the big advantages of selling food is that almost every state in the US
exempts food from sales tax. (Check with your state to be sure).
What You Cannot Sell – Amazon has a restriction on glass jars that contain liquids that are
larger than 4-ounces (volume – not weight) being shipped to Amazon. So, for example, if
you found a locally made hot sauce that comes in 8-ounce bottles, you can sell them
merchant-fulfilled, but you cannot send them to FBA. Amazon has had this rule a long time
but was not enforcing it. They started enforcing it last year so I had to recall a lot of items I
had in FBA and changed them to merchant-fulfilled.
Shipping – One advantage of sourcing locally is that you can simply arrange to pick up the
product at the Farmer’s Market or drive to the supplier and pick it up. This is a real
advantage, as some products such as sauces tend to be heavy and costly to ship. If you buy
from a distributor, then you will need a commercial address to ship to. This can be a
mailbox rental business and many storage locker centers will also do this for a small
monthly fee.
Pricing your product – For some reason I don’t understand, both Amazon and eBay buyers
will pay higher prices for gourmet food products than a store charges. This is truer for
Amazon if you use FBA, because of free super-saver shipping on items over $35. When I
find a product I want to sell, my rule of thumb is 1/3rd for Amazon, 1/3rd for product cost
and 1/3rd for me. So if your product cost is say $6, then you would want to sell it for $18.
1 Of course there are exceptions to every rule. When you are looking on Amazon you will see fresh and frozen
foods, but they are being sold by Amazon itself and are only available in certain parts of the country where
Amazon has special warehouses and distribution centers for these items. But this service is not available to 3rd
party sellers like us.
Use Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) – We sell our food products both in FBA and a few that
are merchant fulfilled. Right now the only ones we are selling merchant fulfilled are those
in glass jars that are over 4 ounces. I can tell you from experience that products in FBA
outsell our merchant fulfilled products by about twenty to one.
Expiration Dates – Expiration dates for packaged products are not required by law, but are
considered good practice in the industry. Amazon announced a policy in August 2012; that
all food items sent to Amazon FBA (this also includes things like pet treats) must have an
expiration date at least 90 days out.
Once a product reaches the 50-day mark, Amazon will pull and destroy the inventory with
no reimbursement to you. (Amazon will, however, move the inventory to unfulfillable for a
couple of weeks to give you time to submit a removal request before they destroy it). So
keep this in mind when you buy foods. My personal rule is: I never buy any item that does
not have at least 12 to 14 months to go before expiration. You may have to pass up the
occasional product, but this is one rule you really don’t want to break as it can become very
Products that can melt – You have to be careful with any product that can melt at high
temperatures. Amazon actually has a policy regarding chocolate. Amazon will not accept
any chocolate products into an FBA shipment during the summer months. But products can
melt at other times. I once shipped some chocolate-covered Akai berries to Amazon in
October. The warehouse Amazon chose was in Arizona where it can still be quite hot in
October. I think they must have sat out on the loading dock for a day, because when they
started selling all of them came back as returns because they had melted by the time the
customer got them.
Packing and Shipping - If you are selling a single item, you can just place your unique
product label over the existing UPC codes and pack all the items in a well packed box in such
a way the items will not break in shipment. But if the item is a glass jar, then you must
wrap it because Amazon insists it pass a 5-foot drop test. So any thing that is likely to break,
we wrap in bubble pak.
If you are bundling multiple items, what I like to do is wrap each item in one layer of bubble
pak, wrap a couple layers of shrink-wrap around them and place them in a poly bag. Then I
put my label on the poly bag. If you want to go a step further, you can put them in a box, seal
the box and place your label on the outside.
Some sellers who sell bundled items will purchase a specific sized box to hold the items.
They then seal the box and put their product label on the outside.
Make sure to cover any existing bar codes on products and on the shipping boxes also. Do
not use loose Styrofoam peanuts in your shipping boxes, as Amazon does not allow this.
You can, however, put your peanuts in a zip bag and use them as void fillers in your boxes.
Amazon is OK with that as long as there are no loose peanuts in the box.
So follow all these “rules” and you will stay out of trouble with Amazon, make more money
and keep your customers happy.
Chapter Two
Locally Sourced Gourmet Foods
I have written often in my newsletter 2 about how I negotiate exclusives on eBay and
Amazon in order to be the exclusive seller. This way I have no competition for the buy box.
One of the easiest products to do that with are gourmet food products that you find locally
from small entrepreneurs. They can be jams, cooking sauces, hot sauces, packaged nuts or
trail mix, jerky, spice mixes, pet treats, honey, olive oil, dried mushrooms –almost anything
that is packaged, canned or bottled and not fresh or frozen. (Note: You can sell fresh or
frozen foods as a merchant- fulfilled seller if you have a shipping method of getting them to
the customer before they spoil). But when you are looking for these goods, don’t forget the
4-ounce rule on glass containers unless you plan to merchant fulfill them.
Farmers’s markets are known as the place to find fresh, local produce –but almost every
farmer’s market I visited, there have been several vendors selling locally-made bottled or
packaged food items. I have also found packaged/bottled food vendors at street fairs and
flea markets.
The idea is very simple. You approach the vendor and ask if they sell wholesale by the case.
If they say yes (and most of them will), you offer to be their exclusive rep on eBay and
Amazon. You could offer to do it on consignment, but I prefer to actually purchase the
product in case lots and sell it myself. You might find one or two, but most vendors will not
be interested in consigning product without cash up front.
You can subscribe to my free newsletter at
Here are just a few of the products I have found locally that I am now selling on eBay and
The sauces pictured above used to be fulfilled by Amazon, but I now merchant fulfill because of the 4ounce restriction in FBA
As I pointed out earlier, for some reason buyers will pay insanely high prices for gourmet
food items on Amazon, when they could find them locally for much less if they just shopped
around. For example, the marinade in the last picture above sells at some super markets for
under $6 a bottle and I am getting $19.95 for a two-pack.
At the moment I have a total of 20 different locally sourced products from 4 different
vendors on Amazon and I am also selling seven of the items on eBay. Why only seven? I
tried all the products on eBay and only seven of them sold after several attempts – but those
seven products do fairly well. The other products did not sell so I stopped listing them on
Chapter Three
Buying From Manufacturers and Distributors
As I mentioned in the introduction, I also purchase gourmet food products directly from
manufacturers and specialty food distributors.
The easiest place to find these manufacturers and distributors is at wholesale trade shows.
Almost every large city in America and Canada (and many in Europe too) has wholesale gift
shows. Don’t let the word “gift’ throw you. That word includes many things including gifts,
food, clothing, kitchenware, jewelry, toys, and more.
Most of the shows will have a special section set aside for gourmet food vendors, although I
have been to a few shows where they are mixed in with everything else.
We live near Seattle where there are two gift shows each year and both of them have a large
area of vendors selling gourmet food products. At the last show, there were over 50
separate vendors in the food section.
When I found a product from a manufacturer I was interested in, I would look at the
Amazon app on my iPhone first to see if it was already selling on Amazon. This gave me a
sense of the competition. If the items were not on Amazon, then I would make my pitch to
be their exclusive Amazon seller (more about this in the next chapter). This works once in a
while with manufacturers, but it is much easier to do with small locally sourced vendors.
Most of the companies exhibiting at shows are more established and sell through reps and
distributors. That makes it difficult to control the sales channels their retail customers use.
There is also a very large gourmet food area at the Annual ASD wholesale trade show in Las
Vegas that is held every March and August. (Go in March, the show is larger and in August,
Las Vegas temperatures can average around 110 degrees).
Another group that puts on shows is the Specialty Food Association. Their website is Since 1955, the Fancy Food Shows have been North
America’s largest specialty food and beverage marketplace. Between the Winter Show in
San Francisco and the Summer Show in New York City, the Specialty Food Association
events bring in more than 40,000 attendees from more than 80 countries and regions to see
260,000 innovative specialty food products, such as confections, cheese, coffee, snacks,
spices, ethnic, natural, organic and more.
Only Specialty Food Association Members can exhibit at the Shows, where retailers,
restaurateurs, distributors and others discover innovative, new food and beverage
products. Every major food-buying channel attends the Shows, as well as influential
members of the trade and consumer press and other related businesses.
It is unlikely you will ever want to exhibit at the show, unless you decide to make your own
foods, but it could be worth joining the association because it is a good way to learn about
the food business and network with industry experts and sources. The association has a lot
of other resources and can connect you to other shows around the country.
Most large cities in the US and Canada have wholesale merchandise marts. These are
buildings where space is leased to wholesale reps and distributors. These centers have the
same sort of things you find at trade shows, but are open all year round.
This is an example of a showroom at our local merchandise mart in Seattle
Our mart in Seattle has five different rep firms or distributors and we source dozens
of products there. Here are just a few of the products I sell on Amazon that I source
from food manufacturers and distributors:
Notice that I am selling my food items in multiple packs. I will explain that in the
next chapter on selling strategy.
Chapter Four
My Selling Strategies for Gourmet Food Products
If you look at my listings, notice that I am selling two or more of each product. The reason
for that is so I make a larger sale. Two of Amazon’s FBA fees are the $1.00 pick & pack fee
and the $1.00 order-handling fee. If I were selling one bottle of the Sesame Ginger sauce for
$9.99, those two fees would represent 20% of my selling price. But at $19.99 for two
bottles, it’s only 10%. I have some products where I take this a step further and sell three,
or even four or five, of each to kick up the price, thereby increasing my margins. My goal is
to keep my average prices over or as close to $20 as I can.
Here is an example:
My product cost on the Sardinellas is 2.90 per can and I sell them in a 3-pack for $19.46. My
competition is selling them in single cans for $6.99 per can. We are both in FBA so add
about 10¢ per can for shipping to Amazon. This makes our cost $3.00.
When my competitor sells one can the Amazon fees are $2.97. He nets $4.02. Subtract his
$3.00 cost and he makes a profit of $1.02 on each sale. When I sell mine for $19.46, the
Amazon fees are $5.09, which nets me $14.37 for a profit of $5.67 on each sale. Also I tend
to outsell my competitor because when people buy this type of product they prefer to buy in
quantity rather than one at a time.
The other issue is shipping. The price of these is not high enough to qualify for Amazon’s
free super saver shipping (An item, or the total order must be over $35 to qualify). So if
someone buys two cans from my competitor at $6.99 each, then Amazon is going to add
$4.90 shipping cost to each can. This makes the total price for the two cans $23.78.
Whereas the same buyer can get three cans from me for $19.46 plus $5.70 shipping, total
$25.16. He or she is getting an extra can for only $1.38. Of course, if the customer is a prime
member, or they buy some other things to bring their total to $35, then the shipping is not
an issue. But you would be amazed at how many people do not know about the free
You are probably wondering who buys Sardinellas and canned Octopus? The answer is I
don’t know, but I sold over 48 three packs of the Sardinellas and 24 of the Octopus during
the last holiday season! This brings me to another part of my selling strategy. The more
unusual the item is, the easier it is to sell –and there is often less competition.
Finding Out What Sells
I typically spend about an hour a week, just browsing the product categories I sell in. In
food this is fairly easy because of the category breakdowns.
If you have a specific product you want to check you can just type it into the search box. But
if you want to know what the best selling products in any category are, just select the
category and leave the search box blank and hit Go.
I did this for cooking oils and sprays and this is what came up on the first page:
Amazon always serves up their search results to display the best-selling products As you
can see 5 of the 6 top selling oils are Coconut Oil and the next two are hemp oil and Walnut
oil. When I saw this I emailed two of the food distributors I buy from and got quotes for
coconut oil (I was already selling the Walnut oil). Over the past six months I have sold over
14 cases of coconut oil. My cost shipped to me is $4.90 per 12 ounce jar (plastic) and I sell
them in 2-Packs for $24.95.
The other selling strategy I use is to always sell in FBA. I rarely source a product I cannot
send into FBA. This helps me sell more and make more. Here is why:
Amazon has over 10 million Prime members. Prime is a program whereby buyers
pay $79 a year and they get free 2nd day air shipping on everything they buy if that
product is in an Amazon warehouse. If you are merchant fulfilling, your products
are not eligible for Prime member’s free shipping.
As I pointed out above, any order totaling over $35 gets free super saver shipping,
but the same thing applies. The product must be in an Amazon warehouse to qualify
for this.
Amazon selects the products that appear in the Buy Box based on the lowest price
including shipping. If you are merchant-fulfilling a 3-pack of sardines for $21.95 +
$6.90 shipping, Amazon looks at that and sees the total of $28.85. But when an item
is in an Amazon warehouse, Amazon assumes the shipping cost will be zero because
of the free super saver shipping (even though the item is less than $35, Amazon
knows that most folks just buy something else to get the free shipping). So what this
all means is that I can price my sardines at $27.95 and I will win the buy box even
though I am higher than your basic price of $21.94, I am lower when the shipping is
figured in.
Lastly there is the issue of eBay. I haven’t addressed eBay very much so far, but one
thing we know about eBay is that they also display items that have free shipping
above other items in search.
When you sell in FBA, Amazon will fulfill your orders for you and Amazon passes on
their incredibly low shipping rates to you. So what I do is sell many of the same
items on eBay as I am selling on Amazon and I add the shipping cost Amazon gives
me to my selling price. But since Amazon’s shipping rates are so much lower than
other eBay sellers, my products come up cheaper when customers are looking for
goods with free shipping.
The other strategy I use is to create food kits. Sometimes it’s just a grouping of foods that
are needed for a certain recipe and sometimes I create a non-food product that I add a food
product to.
An example of a food kit could be a set of the three or four most common spices used in
Middle East cooking (or Chinese, Italian, etc.)
An example of combining food and non-food products would be my salt and pepper mills
(see image below).
The reason the listing shows “Currently unavailable” is that I just sold out and have these on
order. I sold 48 of these sets at $89.97 each over the past holiday season. I have been
selling this same set for the past three years and have easily sold over 300 of them. Last
year the company I got my salt and pepper from raised their price, but I found a new
supplier at the last trade show I went to that would sell me the salt and pepper for almost
$5 less than my previous supplier, so I just dropped the other supplier and change over to
this one.
This brings me to my last issue in my selling strategy; don’t run out of stock of fast-selling
items. Normally I order just in time so I can restock when I get down to one or two items,
but as I write this we are just a few days past the Christmas selling season, and my vendor
closed down between Christmas and New Year day, which delayed my order.
Inventory control is very important to your success on eBay and/or Amazon. The two key
things to remember about inventory control are turnover and stock levels:
The faster and the more times you can turn your inventory over, the more money
you will make in one year. This means you must keep an eye out for slow-moving
inventory and lower your price to get rid of it and put your money back into
products that are selling.
Stay on top of your stock levels and your ordering. Keep a record of how long each
vendor takes to ship goods to you. I have one vendor I deal with in LA who ships the
same day I order and my goods arrive in about 5 days. I have other vendors who
may take up to 3 or 4 business days to ship and shipping can take 7 to 8 days. If you
know how long it takes to replenish your merchandise, you can set low stock alerts
on Amazon to come up in time for you to reorder. You can set replenishment alerts
in Seller Central under the Actions tab in your inventory page.
Then you want to have a good idea of how long it takes something to get to Amazon,
be received into stock and become available for sale. Lets say for a certain product
the total shipping time from ordering to being received by Amazon is 16 days. So
look at your product levels and determine how fast that item is selling. If you are
selling three per week of something, you want to place your order when your stock
level gets below 10 on that product. This way your product will reach Amazon
when you still have at least one left.
Chapter Five
Researching and selling on eBay
As much as eBay has tried to become like Amazon over the past few years, the truth is: eBay
is a different animal. When buyers buy from you on Amazon many of them do not realize
they are buying from you –they think they are buying directly from Amazon. And since
Amazon is the most-trusted shopping site on the Internet, Amazon outsells eBay by a wide
Nevertheless there are a lot of gourmet foods that sell on eBay. I use the same bundling
strategy on eBay as I use on Amazon. The truth is I don’t sell nearly as much on eBay as I do
on Amazon but when I do I make slightly more money because the fees are lower and since
Amazon gives me their low shipping rates I can often also make a little on the shipping.
Research on eBay
To research items on eBay, first browse the Food & Wine sub-category, which is under the
main category of Home and Garden.
This will show you what products are selling, but not how well the product does. But it’s a
good place to start to get a feel for what is working on eBay and what, if any, competition
you may have.
If you see products that you can compete with, or products you might be interested in
selling, click on the button that says Completed Listings. If you do a simple search you will
only see what people are asking for the product –but what you want to know is how many
are selling and what are they selling for. This is the information Completed Listings will give
When I did a completed listing search for Coconut oil, this is what I got:
This tells me two things. Coconut oil has a high sell through rate and I can see what
customers are willing to pay with shipping.
The other tool you want to use for eBay is Terapeak. Terapeak is a third party research tool
that can tell you what items are selling, which are the best items selling by category, the best
keywords to use and the best form of selling strategy. And best of all, Terapeak just
introduced an Amazon research tool so you can use it on Amazon also.
eBay Selling Tips for Gourmet Foods
Expiration Dates - eBay also has a policy about expiration dates, but their policy is
not a strict as Amazon. Nevertheless if you sell food items with short expiration
dates, you are risking a bad feedback.
Images – eBay has a new rule that your images must be at least 600 pixels on a side.
That is so buyers can use the zoom feature. Amazon is now pushing sellers to use
images that are at least 1006 pixels on a side for the same reason, so if you follow
the Amazon standard you will be good to go on both sites.
Image quality is critical when you are selling food items. So if you are shooting your
own images, make sure they are sharp and clear. One thing I like to do is show the
product in use in addition to the package. So if I am selling olive oil, my main image
may be of the bottle and my additional images may be a shot of the product in some
other form, like the examples below:
Product Descriptions ~ If you want to sell food, you need to learn how to write
mouthwatering descriptions. The two most important elements to get across are
quality and flavor.
Shipping & Packing – As you can guess you don’t want your product to arrive
leaking or broken. So don’t skimp on the packaging. If you are shipping anything
breakable, use plenty of bubble pak. I tend not to use Styrofoam peanuts on eBay
either for the simple reason people don’ t like unpacking and dealing with them.
Because we buy a lot of goods for resale, we always have them around, but I do the
same thing with my eBay shipments as I do with Amazon, I put my Styrofoam
peanuts in a sealed poly bag, then use the poly bag for cushioning and fill. Of course
if you are using FBA to fulfill your shipments, then they will do the shipping so you
don’t have to worry about this.
Automate – When you use Amazon FBA to fulfill your eBay orders, you have to go
into Amazon Seller Central and create a fulfillment order. Then you wait for
Amazon to send you an email saying your order has been shipped and you go over
to eBay and enter the tracking number. Frankly this can be a real pain –especially
around busy selling times of year.
There are two services that can automate this process for you. The first one is
Vendio. Vendio does several things. It’s a 3rd-party listing service where you can
create listings, host your images and control your inventory all in one place. And it
works with both eBay and Amazon. You can set up your Vendio account so when
you sell something on eBay, the system will automatically connect to your Amazon
FBA inventory and create the fulfillment order. The system also monitors your
Amazon account, so when the order is shipped, Vendio will automatically enter the
tracking number into eBay for you. The other thing the Vendio system will do is
monitor your inventory in FBA. If an item goes to zero, and that items is listed on
eBay, the Vendio system will automatically end the eBay listing so you are not in
danger of selling something you don’t have.
I have been using Vendio now for over ten years and have always had good support.
Yes they charge fees for this service, but I find saving in time and other savings in
eBay fees easily offset the Vendio fees.
The other automation service that does fulfillment for you is
AutoMCF works well, but all it does is the fulfillment. It does not have all the
services that Vendio offers. But it is quite a bit cheaper than Vendio.
Chapter Six
Gourmet Food is a great little niche that anyone can do. I know the final values are not that
high, but you can make some excellent margins. On most of my items, I make between $7.00
to $15.00 profit after shipping and Amazon FBA fees. But the quantities I sell are excellent.
Here is an example – Look again at the White Lightening Hot Pepper Sauce that I sell for
$16.99. After FBA fees, my net on that product is $13.25. My cost on the two bottles is $3.44
– so that is a profit of $9.81 on each sale. That is almost a 300% markup. During the holiday
selling season from November to December, I actually raised the price to $17.99 and
completely sold out.
Here is an olive oil product I sell where my cost is $14 for two bottles and I am selling them
for $39.
My net is $30.03 after shipping and fees, deduct my $14 cost and I make a profit of $16.03
per sale. This product sells about 4 to 5 per week –more in the Fall, as we get close to the
holidays. In last year’s run-up to Thanksgiving I was averaging over ten sets per week and
we were completely sold out by Christmas.
Those are two of the products I am now changing over to merchant-fulfilled because of the
aforementioned FBA 4-ounce rule. They were still available at Amazon when I took these
I have been showing you Amazon listings so far, but here is an example of an eBay listing for
one of my products:
At the moment, gourmet food items are only a small part of my business. I have close to 900
total SKUs on eBay and Amazon. Out of the 900, about 75 are Gourmet food SKUs . On those,
I average about 8 to 10 sales a day – or about $90 a day in profits after cost, shipping and
Amazon fees. Remember Amazon and eBay work 365 days a year, so $90 a day is $32,850.
Imagine my profits when I have about say 200 gourmet food SKUs, which is where I plan to
take this niche.
So if you are reading this during the Spring or Summer, head out to your local Farmers
Market or street fair and start sourcing these profitable items. If not, start going to trade
shows and merchandise marts to find some Gourmet Food Distributors.
Retail Arbitrage
Retail arbitrage is nothing more than buying from stores such as Costco, Sam’s Club and
Trader Joes. I covered this fairly thoroughly in the introduction so there isn’t much else to
say about it other than research before you buy. Make sure there is a market for the
product. Fortunately most of the food items are fairly inexpensive, so if you are not sure
about the market, you can buy one or two items just to try them out. Worst case; if you only
buy things you like, and they don’t sell, you can always eat them.
If you don’t think this works –I would like you to try something. Kirkland is the house
brand for Costco. Type Kirkland into the Amazon and/or eBay search box and see how
many results you get. You will be amazed at how much stuff you can source from Costco
(not only food). Next, if you have a Trader Joes where you live, type Trader Joes into the
Amazon search box.
I did this just for the heck of it. eBay came back with 3,414 results for Trader Joes and
Amazon came back with 3,349. For the word Kirkland, I got 12,814 results on Amazon and
2,544 listing on eBay.
Making and Selling Your Own Food Product
In the introduction I told you that making your own food product was one of the ways to
source food to sell on Amazon and eBay, but it’s frankly just way beyond the scope of this
book. I would not even know where to begin. But if this is something you have always
wanted to do, then go for it. I just have no idea where to learn all about packaging and
bottling, government regulations and so on. But I am sure there is a book on it somewhere.
I would not be surprised if there wasn’t a Dummies Guide to Starting Your Own Food
So that’s pretty much it. This is a great business niche and if you like food (as I do) it’s also a
lot of fun. Good luck!