This is the first in a two-part discussion.

The next time you’re sitting around the table with your other food entrepreneur friends, ask them whether or not you should have a company website. You’ll probably get more responses than you can listen to. It’s like the old joke that if you pose a question to three people you’ll get four answers. All jokes aside, the question comes up a lot and just about everyone who runs a food business seems to have an opinion on the topic.

It’s our position at Food Methods that, as the owner of a food business, you definitely should see to it that your company has its own website. Food affects people on a very personal level. Standing in the aisle of the grocery store reading ingredient panels doesn’t begin to describe the level of interest (and scrutiny) consumers show towards the products they buy. Your food company website can become a way to connect with consumers about your products, your business practices, and your passion. Without one, they’re less likely to develop trust and confidence in your brand.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and similar accounts may be helpful but should not be seen as substitutes for a full-featured website. Social media should be viewed as optional components of your overall web presence. As you formulate your social media strategy, consider the likelihood that advertisements for your competitors’ products may start appearing next to your company’s social media content and there’s little you can do about it.

Our reasons for suggesting that all food businesses should have a company website are many but the overall philosophy behind this view boils down to one important truth: a dedicated web presence for your company serves as the “official” voice of all things related to your products and your company. Without an official website, customers (and all others including members of the press) are on their own when searching for information about your business. What that means is that you’ll essentially be letting others do your talking for you. Do you really want that?

Another fact to consider is that some people will not take your business seriously without a website. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal at first but it can end up costing you. For example, we know one packaging supplier who is reluctant to extend credit to companies that do not have a website - and they don’t even check Facebook. This supplier regards such companies as temporary and somewhat unprofessional. So firms that lack a website are stuck paying in advance for materials from that supplier.

From a branding and marketing perspective, the benefits of having a website and keeping it current are incalculable. There is no better way to tell your story and get your message across than with inspired, tasteful web content that reflects your unique branding. Consumers of fine food products tend to want to know about what they are eating and they will go searching for it. Your website presents a wonderful opportunity to provide compelling information to discerning eaters 24 hours a day. Otherwise the narrative about your products, your company (and even you) will be told by someone other than you who may or may not have your best interests in mind.

How you go about bringing your food business website into existence is not as important as having one out there. There are many ways a food product startup can produce a website (at little or no cost) that reflects favorably on their business. Some business owners may feel reluctant to launch their site if it’s not professionally-designed and perfect in every way.

Savvy food entrepreneurs know that perfection is less important that authenticity when it comes to their website. A great approach is to start modestly with a few key pages and grow the site from there. It’s far more approachable to think about adding content to an existing website at a reasonable pace, rather than waiting for the ultimate site to be built. Not only will this approach ease the pressure, but it will increase the possibility that consumers who are eager for insight about your company will continue to be interested in your company and your products.