Shelf life testing for your food product



Shelf life testing for your food product.

Getting your product shelf life tested for your new food product can be a bit daunting. Any research you do is bound to pull lots of technical, scientific terms that won’t mean much to you unless you have a chemistry degree!

When I was getting the shelf life of my shortbread biscuits certified it took me a while to get my head around things so I thought I’d summarise some key points here, just to help you get started.

Basically, you need to know your product’s shelf life, so you know what expiry date you need to put on your products once they’ve been produced and packaged. Your product expiry date will be expressed either as a ‘use by’ date, or a ‘best before end’ date.

Use by date

This must be used for foods that are high risk and highly perishable. This would include dairy, meat products. These food products are likely to deteriorate really quickly and would pose a risk to health, lead to food poisoning. The ‘Use By’ date expires at midnight on the date shown, after which the food is deemed unsafe and it would be a criminal offence to sell it.

Best Before/Best Before End

This kind of expiry date relates more to the quality of the food. This is the date at which the taste or experience of eating that product may begin to decline. The food will still be okay to eat after  this date but just won’t taste at its best. The rules change for the specific shelf life, but if your product is 3 months and under, you should include the day/month/year, 3-18 months at least month/year and for over 18 months at least the year when printing your expiry date. This will apply to most baked products.

What to prepare before you contact a lab

To get your product shelf life tested you’ll need to approach a shelf life testing company or lab. Some producers try to work out their products shelf life themselves but if its really important that you get your shelf life tested properly under lab conditions by experts. If you ever plan to wholesale your products or get SALSA/BRC accreditation this will be a minimum requirement.

Before you approach the testing company there are few bits of information you should have prepared:

  • Completed recipe for your product with full ingredients information available.
  • A solid idea of how your product will be packaged ie vacuum packed pouch, cello bag or some kind of box.
  • A good idea of how/where your product will be sold and consumed.
  • the cooking/baking process you’ll be using and under what conditions ie in a domestic kitchen or commercial production environment.

If you are looking for the testing lab to give you recommendations on how you can lengthen your shelf life or any other product development advice then be clear about this from the beginning. This will help to ensure that you get all the information you need.

What to do next

Once you’ve pulled together your information, then its a good idea to contact a few different labs to check if they can help you, if they specialise or can cater for your type of product, their prices and what you’ll get in terms of completed report, additional advice and guidance etc. It’s a good idea to get a few quotes and compare them to see which one offer the best value. Also take into account the vibe you got from your initial discussions. Did it seem like they understood your product and your future plans? Do they take the time to explain things to you in a way that you understand and can take action?

Lastly, do remember that if you change any of the ingredients in the recipe or significantly change the production process or packaging for example at later time, then you may need to do some re-testing to recheck shelf life.

More shelf life testing resources:

1. If you’re looking to find a lab to work with, there is a list of shelf life testing labs available here on the Food Hub Directory.

2. This section of the Food & Drink Federation Website also has helpful resources.

3. You can also get more insight on the topic of shelf life testing for your food product from my facebook live video training. Watch the video here.

nila holden facebook live product shelf life testing for your food business


4. If you’d like to this receive this information as a free 3 page Shelf Life Testing checklist emailed to you then sign up here and I’ll send it straight to your inbox.

nila holden shelf life testing for your food product checklist

Happy Baking!

Nila x


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If you would like some more support and training to help you grow your food business  then do head over to our facebook group where an active community of food business owners regularly come together to learn how to grow and develop their food businesses.


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How to price your products for a profitable baking business


When you first launch your baking business or go from being a hobby baker to a business baker, it can be hard to work out your prices. I remember when I took redundancy and started my iced biscuit business all of a sudden it became really important that I got my prices spot on, that I covered all the costs because I needed to make sure that my business was profitable in order to earn a living.

If I hadn’t taken these important steps, I’m not sure my business would have survived the first couple of years. It would have been easy to keep my prices low to keep the orders books full. But ultimately I wouldn’t have made any proper money. It’s not a nice feeling when you get to the end of the year and do your tax return and find you’ve been working hard all year for pennies.

If you’re not a baker but have a creative business where you make handmade products, then the principles below will count for you too.

It is possible to charge fair prices and run a profitable business by following some key principles:

1. Define your business model.


The first step to working out your pricing takes you right back to the basics of your business. What sort of baking business do you want to have?

As you’ll see in the slide below, you can sell 3 cakes per week for £100 per cake and turnover £300 or you can sell 30 cakes per week for £10 per cake and turnover £300 per week.

Would you like a premium baking business, where you make fewer hand made cakes, but at a higher value? You will need fewer customers, but they will be making a more considered purchase so you will really need to show the value of what you offer.


Would you like a volume based baking business where you need more customers buying at a lower price. This is likely to be a more impulse based buying decision, based on cost more than anything. So an easier purchase.

There’s no right or wrong answer here, it’s just a persona decision. Both businesses make the same amount of money, but are very different in the way they offer their goods and services and different in the way they price their products.


2. Get comfortable with charging your worth


Common things I hear food entrepreneurs say:

-I don’t include a salary for myself as that would make my products too expensive.

-I could never charge that much, no one will buy my products.

-I feel uncomfortable charging those prices. I personally would never pay that much!

-I know that’s what I should be charging but I usually charge less to make sure I get the sale.

It’s not unusual as an entrepreneur to feel uncomfortable with the idea of charging what your worth. But to move forward in your baking business, you have to, at a basic level accept that your products are worth a fair price.

It’s tempting to keep your prices low, which keeps the orders coming in and makes you feel like you’re growing and making money. But ultimately, this is not profitable and not sustainable.

If your baking business is to grow and flourish, you have to get comfortable with charging a fair price, where all the costs have been factored in. It is possible to charge a fair price and grow your sales, as long as your customers understand the VALUE of buying from you. To do this, you need to continually communicate & deliver VALUE to your customers.

3. Use the Pricing Formula: Overheads + Hourly Rate + Raw Materials + Value = Profitable Price



To give a fair price for your products, you need to include a cost to cover your time (HOURLY RATE).

You also need to cover any costs like website, electricity, telephone, premises costs, insurance etc etc. Some of these would be apportioned for the amount of time you actually use them for the business (OVERHEADS).

Then the costs related to actually making your products (RAW MATERIALS).

Lastly, you need include an additional amount (normally called a mark up, but here we’ll call it VALUE). This does a few things, firstly it gives you a buffer in case of price rises, or if there are any costs you haven’t include elsewhere. If you have a ‘hand made’ business then this mark up will be important and will allow you to offer the ‘add ons’, personalisation, high level of customer service, giving your customers an exclusive buying experience. I find that it helps to list everything out and then allocate costs to each of the headers and upload them into a spreadsheet.

4. Do a reality check



Once you’ve got the costings drafted in your spreadsheet, its time to do a REALITY CHECK

How do the prices look? How do they compare with the industry average, or prices in your local area, or against your competitors prices?

Do they seem too low? Have you properly costed in your time? If you had to produce 10 of your products in certain timeframe, how long would it take? Would it feel like a fair reward for your time and effort once you’d covered all your costs?

Do they seem too high? How and why does the price differ from the industry average, from competitors prices? Can you justify this? How will you clearly communicate this to your customers?

Have you allowed enough of a buffer in case of price rises for example?

What about corporation tax, VAT (if applicable), and postage – how will you incorporate these costs? Make any adjustments needed in your spreadsheet.

5. Time to ditch the hobby baker mindset.



It’s really important that you adopt the right mindset. Because you’re running a business. Yes, to be able to do something you love & put your gifts out into the world. But if you’re serious about running a profitable business, then you need to make the shift and adopt a business mindset.

And get clear and comfortable with the financials, with costings, and the idea of working to make a PROFIT.

Sometimes this may mean that you need to make tough decisions about what’s working and what’s not. What you keep and what you discard. What makes money and what does not.

This is not always easy because we are human, emotionally tied to our work, to our craft, to our skill and our products.

But remember, by ditching the stuff that doesn’t stack up financially, this leaves you free to concentrate on creating products that are profitable.

So be brave, be flexible and most importantly – take action.


Art of Pricing for a Profitable Baking Business Course.

So I hope that has helped you think through how you will go about pricing your products. I get asked this question so often by bakers and cake makers that I put together a short online Pricing training course to take you through all of these sections in depth.

The course materials also include a downloadable workbook so you can keep all your notes and calculations in one place and a downloadable spreadsheet already set up with all the formulas etc, so you just need input your costs.

pricing for your baking business nila holden


I really wish I’d had access to a course like this when I started my baking business. It would have helped me to get really clearly, saved a lot of confusion and ultimately helped me to become profitable a lot quicker.

If you’re serious about launching a profitable baking business then head over to buy the Art of Pricing for a Profitable Baking Business course now.

Happy Baking..!

Nila x


If you liked this blog post then why not sign up to ‘The Perfect Bake’ my weekly round up of tips, tricks & training to help you along your business journey – delivered straight into your inbox.



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If you would like some more in depth training on how your food business can get involved in and capitalise on Pantone Colour of the Year then do head over to our facebook group where an active community of food business owners regularly come together to learn how to grow and develop their food businesses.


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Pantone Colour of the Year 2018: What opportunities for your baking business?

pantone colour of the year 2018 ultraviolet marketing ideas pinterest

 What is a pantone colour?

Pantone are the experts on colour. There’s a whole institute full of colour experts who’s job it is to catalogue, code, promote and champion colour. Lots of designers from the fashion, home, interiors and gifting industries look to the experts at Pantone as the authority on all things colour. The institute has catalogued over 1,800 colours, each one has a code and a name.

Every year, the Pantone Institute announces its colour of the year. Selected by a panel of experts mapping trends from popular culture, fashion, technology, food, and interiors the colour inevitably filters down into design trends. Pantone Colour of the Year for 2018  is Ultra Violet. It’s a real marmite colour, purple being a colour that most people either love or hate.

According to the Pantone Institute, Ultra violet is a regal colour, the colour of the Queen. A mystical colour, the colour of crystal balls. A futuristic colour, the colour that NASA uses to map space.  A cosmic colour. A colour of non conformists like the artists Prince and David Bowie who both sadly passed away in 2017.

pantone colour of the year ultraviolet macarons

What does this mean for your food business?

Well in 2018 , buyers from all walks of life – home and interiors, gifting, food will be sourcing purple/ultra violet products.

Features editors from all the top print publications and online sites from weddings to interiors, to food and gifting will be looking for purple/violet products, designs, & content.

Purple / Ultra violet will be a huge trend and will filter down into sourcing guides, designs briefs and buying guides.

How can you – as a food business – make the most of this opportunity?

By creating purple themed products or content eg:

Purple / Ultraviolet themed products – wedding & celebration cakes, wedding favours, iced biscuits, purple themed confectionery.

nila holden iced biscuits pantone colour of the year 2018 ultra violet

Recipes, tutorials featuring purple ingredients – think aubergine, red cabbage, berries, juices and smoothies.


Ultraviolet Pantone Colour of the Year 2018 Marketing ideas for your food or creative business vegetable

Blogs, articles focusing on the health benefits of purple food containing anthocyanins & antioxidants

ultra violet pantone colour of the year purple food nila holden

How can you use this content to gain exposure for your food business?

Why not develop a bespoke range of purple themed products eg wedding or celebration cakes, iced biscuits, lollipops, macarons?

Take really good quality images of your food products that are either made in purple or contain purple ingredients and share.

Promote your purple themed content on your social media channels, not forgetting to include appropriate hashtags

Pitch your purple related content with features editors of print publications and online blogs too.

pantone colour of the year 2018 ultra violet nila holden figs

Don’t forget the messages around purple being a cosmic colour, a futuristic colour, a spiritual colour. These are all trends that may hit the high street in big way in 2018. Is there some way you incorporate these themes into your food products, recipes or content?

pantone colour of the year cosmic donuts nila holden

As we’ve seen in previous years, Pantone Colour of the Year has the potential to really capture the imagination of designers, artists and creatives and filter down in a major way.  Food businesses can play a really big part in this.

How could you capitalise on this opportunity…?

Do you have any bespoke products you already do, or could produce in purple?

Can you think of any recipes you could pull together featuring purple foods?

Let me know your ideas in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you.

Nila x

Ultraviolet Pantone Colour of the Year 2018 Marketing ideas for your food or creative business vegetables


pantone colour of the year 2018 ultraviolet nila holden

If you liked this blog post then why not sign up to ‘The Perfect Bake’ my weekly round up of tips, tricks & training to help you along your business journey – delivered straight into your inbox.



Click here to sign up


If you would like some more in depth training on how your food business can get involved in and capitalise on Pantone Colour of the Year then do head over to our facebook group where an active community of food business owners regularly come together to learn how to grow and develop their food businesses.


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Logo biscuits ideas for your corporate gifting

We’ve had a busy few months here at the Bakery, I wanted to drop by and show you some of the lovely corporate biscuit projects we’ve worked on recently.

Branded biscuits can make for a fantastic corporate gift, for a product launch, as freebies for a trade show or corporate event or as a yummy treat to thank your staff and employees.

And this year, here at Nila Holden bakery, in respond to to growing demand from our clients, we’ve ramped up our capacity to be able to edible print onto icing. So we can now recreate most forms of logo & artwork in edible form, adding a real point of difference to your corporate gifting.

Here are some of the projects we’ve worked on in October:

  1. 12,000 (yes – you read that right – a whopping 12,000!) biscuits for Thomson Tui for the product launch for Marella Cruises. Read more about this project here.

branded biscuits for tui marella cruises


2. Mobile phone themed biscuits for Intercontinental Hotels Group for a promotional campaign. Biscuits were shipped to Paris, Frankfurt and locations in the UK. This is our second year of working with IHG and we’ll soon be making a start on our third collaborative project.

mobile phone corporate biscuits IHG nila holden


3. Halloween themed biscuits for Virgin Atlantic, a Halloween treat/thank you gift for partner retailers.

corporate halloween cookies for virgin atlantic

4. Bridal themed biscuits for Spanish Bridal brand Rosa Clara. The biscuits were distributed to bridal salons as a freebie gift to give out to brides attending the brand’s trunk shows up and down the UK.


5. Branded biscuits for the Methodist Church. The Chair and Vice Chair of the National Conference visit local and regional partners across the UK on a monthly basis and like to have a small ‘leave behind’ gift. The biscuits are branded with the Methodist Church logo, but also this delightful ‘Give, Pray, Act’ artwork – sentiments that resonate with the church’s members and congregations – and presented in a pretty white gift box.

branded biscuits for the methodist church by nila holden


So as you can see, branded biscuits can be perfect for corporate gifting in so many different scenarios, be it for your current or prospective clients, for your employees or  corporate partners & supply chain. If you’re looking for a delicious hand baked treat complete with your logo, branding or strapline, then do drop us a line via our enquiry form – we’d love to hear from you and are happy to come up with suggestions and prices to fit with your requirements.

Nila x

If you liked reading about these logo biscuit projects, you might also enjoy these blog posts:

Logo biscuits for Flymo & McCulloch UK

Corporate logo biscuits for Epson UK

Corporate logo biscuits for a digital marketing company




Logo biscuits to launch a new cruise ship

We’ve had a really busy October here at the bakery with lots of orders for corporate biscuits. We’ve baked, iced, wrapped & shipped just under 17,000 biscuits, our busiest month ever!

Our biggest order this month and our biggest order to date was for some branded biscuits for holiday company Thomson Tui, who are a fellow Luton based business.  The team at Tui were looking for a fun, yummy branded gift to give out to all employees as part of their celebrations around the launch of the new Marella Cruise liner.

Tui ordered just over 12,000 biscuits, each to be iced with the new Marella Cruise branding. The order was fairly last minute and we had around 10 working days from order sign off to get all the biscuits baked and packed and dispatched to Thompson Tui locations around the UK.

The team at Tui went for a simple but classic design for their logo biscuits, with a simple white icing, with the lovely new Marella Cruises branding.  Due to the commercially sensitive nature of the PR / product launch, we agreed to sign an NDA, which is common practice for projects of this nature. So naturally, all the work was carried out with the utmost secrecy and discretion.


We had lots of fun visiting the various Tui locations in / around Luton Airport. And after many long days and late nights baking and packing biscuits, I have to confess to feeling the need for some holiday sunshine and trip abroad somewhere sometime soon!  Visiting the Tui offices really put me in the holiday mood.

Tui marella cruises launch logo biscuits nila holden


We had some fantastic feedback from the Tui team “Just wanted to say thank you for the delivery today, the biscuits looked great and we’ve heard some really positive comments…”

And lots of love for the biscuits on social media too!



This is the single biggest order we’ve done to date and at times slightly overwhelming, but a fantastic opportunity to work with a fellow Luton business and also to have an opportunity to really scale up and see how the bakery could cope with such a large order to be turned around in such as short timescale. I am super proud of how the team pulled together to make this happen.

And in the busy run up to Christmas I’m looking forward to getting stuck into lots more corporate orders so if you’re on the hunt for corporate christmas gifts, or logo biscuits for your Christmas events, gifting etc then do drop us a line via our branded biscuits enquiry form. We’d love to hear from you!


Nila x

If you liked this blog post you might be interested in reading about our other branded cookie projects:

Get Ready with Freddie Cousin Brown at Pandora HQ

Biscuits for SEAT Cars Track Back Campaign

Bus biscuits for Here East’s new shuttle bus.








A brief visit to Kynance Cove, Cornwall


blue seas at kynance cove cornwall

In my honest opinion Kynance Cove is the most beautiful beach in Cornwall, if not in the whole of the UK. It is regularly voted as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and with its crystal blue seas and white sandy beaches, its easy to see why.

Kynance Cove is situated on the Lizard peninsula, just a few short miles from Lizard Point. We visited on a sunny day in August. We’d had a late start and by the time we reached the Cove it was already lunchtime so we only had a few hours til high tide at just gone 4pm.

kynance cove cornwall lizard

If you arrive later on in the afternoon, you’ll find that it’s not a beach in the traditional sense, but a cove full of stunning volcanic crags and rocky outcrops, surrounded by the most beautiful blue seas. Honestly, you’d have to pinch yourself to believe that you’re not in some tropical country.

When we arrived, stewards were holding back the traffic and turning cars away. Everyone had the same idea and had headed to the Cove and the car park was already full. We had the option of parking near the entrance to site, which the stewards said would be a half hour walk to the water. We opted to wait to see if some spaces would become free lower down. Our patience was rewarded when about 15 minutes later we we were allowed in to park.

Once we’d parked we headed down to the beach. I couldn’t not stop looking at the water, so many different shades of blue and green, just stunning set against a backdrop of dark coloured rock, and wild grass.

kynance cove cornwall high tide

Most of the best spots on the beach and cliffs further up were already taken, and it was quite busy. But we found a small space near the waters edge and set up. The kids put on their wetsuits and headed straight out.

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 21.55.01

kynance cove cornwall rocky beach

The water was just so clear and inviting! I headed in, and I have to say, there was a real swirl and strong current, with the waves coming in and crashing against the rocks. As always, the water was cold to start with but within a few minutes it was lovely and warm.

beautiful sand at kynance cove cornwall

beach at kynance cove cornwall

A bit later on, as the tide started to come in, we headed up to the lovely Cafe which serves hot / cold food, ice cream and the best Cornish cream tea! It was a great spot from which to gaze out over the sea, and watch the tide coming in from a safe distance, as the beach slowly disappeared!

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 21.52.14

beautiful kynance cove

All in all, everyone agreed that it was one of the best outings of our 10 day holiday. We had perfect weather, I just wish we’d had more time to spend there. But it’s definitely somewhere I’d like to return to, and this time I’d love to spend some time exploring the cliffs and headlands, so will definitely remember to pack some suitable footwear.

A few tips if you’re planning to visit:

Check tide times and head out early to get a parking space and a good spot at the beach. The National Trust website recommends that you plan to arrive no later than 11am if you’re visiting during the school holidays.

The beach almost completely disappears at high tide and you could get cut off from the main cliffs back up to the car park so keep an eye for the tide.

The pathway down to the beach is rocky and the beach pebbly so wear suitable footwear. I wore flip-flops which were not great.

kynance cove cornwall


Cornwall is a beautiful county with many places to visit. We’ve spent many Summer’s holidaying in Cornwall, and this Summer we spent 10 days camping in and around Land’s End. If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, you may also like:

A brief visit to St Michael’s Mount

A brief visit to Newlyn.

Nila x

A brief visit to St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall

st michael's mount marazion nila holden ltd

St Michael’s Mount is a beautiful old monastery that sits atop a looming mount in Mount’s Bay Cornwall. It mirrors Mont St Michel in Brittany, and has unenviable position right at the centre of the bay, clearly visible from all sides from Mousehole right round to Marazion.

st michael's mounts bay from st michaels mount nila holden ltd

We visited on a sunny day in August. At this time of the year, the Mount opens at 11am and we got there early about 10.30 thinking we’d get ahead of the crowds, but when we got there, the main 2 car parks were already full and so we parked in the overflow car park. Parking was well organised with stewards on hand to direct us.

Access to the Mount is via a causeway when the tide out, and in August, this was between 11am and 4pm roughly. At other times you can get a boat back and forth. We walked along the cobbled causeway and made our way to the Mount. It’s surprisingly large when you get there with a number of houses, alongside the estate offices, coffee shops and other facilities and of course the castle.

st michael's mount side view marazion nila holden ltd

Not surprisingly, with it being August, it was busy. We queued to get our entry tickets. If you’re a National Trust Member and you make yourself know to the staff, you can get passported through and not queue, but only if you have your membership card with you. The staff at the mount don’t have the facilities to check the NT database so you will need to have your NT membership card.

We then made our way up to the castle up past the Giant’s well, the Giants loveheart. There was storyteller entertaining younger children on the grassy area. We queued for about 20 mins up a long windy path to actually get access to the castle but it was well worth it. There are lookout points along the way, so you can stop for a few moments and gaze out across the expansive beautiful bay. The different colours in the sea are mesmerising. It is a bit of a climb up, at times rocky & uneven path.

looking back to marazion from st michaels mount nila holden ltd

Having been home to monks I expected the castle to have more of a monastic feel. but I was surprised to discover that it is actually a living house, home to the St Aubyn family who still live there on a day to day basis. It’s well decorated & beautifully preserved with lots of historic artefacts.

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 18.53.19.png

It must be a truly magical place to live surrounded by heritage, stunning gardens & 360 degree views of the sea stretching right to the horizon. With many window seats from which to spot invaders, the odd armada, or to just sit and enjoy a book.

st michael's mount castle marazion nila holden ltd


 I was also surprised at the sheer height of the building, you don’t get a feel for just how high up the castle sits, when you drive past at a distance in the car. So probably not for feint hearted or for you if you suffer from vertigo.

st michael's mount gardens marazion nila holden ltd

st michael's mount sundial marazion nila holden ltd

st michael's mount castle top2 marazion nila holden ltd

st michael's mount castle top marazion nila holden ltd

The chapel is well worth a visit for the beautiful stained glass windows. Sunday services still take place in the Chapel every Sunday from late May to late September.


All these years we’ve been coming to Cornwall, we must have driven past like a million times. For me, St Michael’s Mount is also a bit of a beacon rising proudly up out into the bay, and the first thing you see when the train from Paddington finally pulls into Penzance station. I can’t believe we didn’t visit sooner, but so glad we finally did this year.


walkin back to marazion from st michaels mount

The gardens weren’t open to the public on the day we visited which was a shame as from what we could see of them from the castle, they looked stunning. I’d like to come to back one day just to visit the gardens., and this time maybe take a boat over.

If you’re planning a visit, do check the St Michael’s Mount website for opening and tide times, events etc. As I mentioned, the path up to the castle can, in some places, be a bit steep, and cobbled so might not be suitable for visitors with mobility issues. Car parking for the day cost £5.00.