Ok, first the bad news ---
In the US you can't just mix up recipes in your kitchen, have them
packaged, and then sell them. Once you get past the lemonade-stand
stage, you have a whole raft of government regulations to contend
If you use your own kitchen (and for most products you may not), there
are licensing and health inspection requirements that would apply.
There are also strict labeling regulations and insurance requirements.
Food packaging and selling is a complicated business.
This site would be a good starting point if you wanted to pursue your
business from a do-it-yourself standpoint.
FDA RESOURCES FOR STARTING A FOOD BUSINESS
As you can see, the regulations are daunting.
BUT, there is good news! There ARE ways to do this.
What I'm going to do here is give you an overview of how you can move
your product from kitchen to consumer. Then I'll give you some
resources that apply to your product and your area of the country.
To hand-walk your product through the system of regulations,
formulation, scale-up, production, packaging, labeling, storing,
marketing, processing orders, and distribution, is a huge task one
that would move you from part-time kitchen entrepreneur to owner of a
full-fledged manufacturing and distribution plant.
I dont get a sense that this is your goal. What you have is a good
idea, a tasty recipe, a market in mind, and a modest goal of making
some money off this product, right?
So, how do you do that?
Most home-based food entrepreneurs hire one company, often a COPACKER
to do all the legwork for them.
Copackers are companies that manufacture and package foods for other
companies to sell -- from nationally-known brands to private labels.
Copackers can provide entrepreneurs with a variety of services in
addition to manufacturing and packaging products. They can often help
in the formulation of the product.
Some of the ways that a copacker can save you time and effort are --
--- Already have processing lines in place
--- handle manufacturing, packaging, and labeling
--- have the proper regulatory certifications
--- have access to lines of credit for purchasing
supplies and ingredients, insurance, food industry
contacts and sources to get the job done efficiently.
--- familiar with quality parameters, food safety
requirements, and shipping needs.
--- have the proper facilities for receiving and storing
ingredients and can arrange storage of finished
Some copackers offer other services for entrepreneurs such as
-- product stability testing
-- nutritional labeling
-- formulation assistance
-- ingredient substitution
-- other product development services
-- suggestions on packaging and labeling
Copackers can also direct you to professionals who can assist you in
the design and marketing of your product.
These publications explain the role of a copacker to food
entrepreneurs and how to select one for your product.
CHOOSING AND USING A COPACKER
FOOD PROCESSING USING A CO-PACKER
If you wanted to take some of these tasks into your own hands, this
excellent article gives a great overview on how to do everything from
producing your product, to having it packaged, and marketing it. Note
that although it references Massachusetts law, the general information
would apply to California or anywhere else.
"A practical guide for specialty food and start-up food processors
published by the Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture"
THE MASSACHUSETTS FOOD PROCESSORS RESOURCE MANUAL
Another avenue you could try is using what is known as a SHARED
COMMERCIAL KITCHEN or FOOD INCUBATOR SITE. These are certified
industrial kitchens, often located on University campuses or in
conjunction with non-profit organizations, that food entrepreneurs
like yourself may use to prepare food products for sale. Many of these
also offer assistance in packaging and marketing your product.
Here's an example from Colorado
KITCHEN INCUBATOR PROGRAM
Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate a Kitchen Incubator in
your area. I searched the NATIONAL BUSINESS INCUBATOR ASSOCIATION site
but found nothing in the way of kitchen incubators in California:
NATIONAL BUSINESS INCUBATOR ASSOCIATION - search
You might try contacting these folks for more information:
California Business Incubation Network
101 W Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101-8205
Tel: (619) 237-0559
Fax: (619) 237-0521
I did find mention of one in Northern California on this site:
" Incubator Shared Use Commercial Kitchen, Since 2000, EDC has worked
to coordinate funds for a shared-use commercial kitchen ...expected to
be open for business in the most southerly portion of the EDC facility
during the fall of 2002
There is contact information on the site.
SISKIYOU COUNTY BUSINESS INCUBATOR CENTER & BUSINESS INNOVATIVE CENTER
This site lists Kitchen Incubators nationwide, and as you can see,
lists nothing in your area:
KITCHEN INCUBATORS AND OTHER FOOD-RELATED SMALL BUSINESSES
The UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA DAVIS COOPERATIVE EXTENSION provides
lists of companies in California that offer services to the food
industry. The 2 publications I link below the main page are
comprehensive lists of copackers and food dehydrators in California. I
would also recommend contacting the Cooperative extension directly.
They are a good source of information for agriculture-based start up
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA DAVIS COOPERATIVE EXTENSION
RESOURCES FOR THE FOOD INDUSTRY
Resource guide: Co-packers
[Includes 3 commercial kitchens in Northern CA)
Resource guide: Dehydrators
These folks might be able to refer you to copackers near you:
" Member companies are primarily canners, freezers, dryers, and
dehydrators of fruits and vegetables. Additional processor members
include snack foods, juice bottlers, and specialty processors of a
variety of food products. Our members operate over 200 processing
plants located throughout the State of California."
CALIFORNIA LEAGUE OF FOOD PROCESSORS
FOOD SAFETY INSPECTION GUIDELINES FOR CALIFORNIA FOOD PROCESSORS
SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CENTERS (SBDC)
SBDC - LA
SBDC - SW LA COUNTY
SBDC SE LA COUNTY
This website contains an incredible number of links to useful
well-written articles on the subject of home food processing and
marketing. Although some of the specific legal resources apply only to
the state of Pennsylvania, the majority are general in nature and
would apply to your business as well. I urge you to take the time to
read most of the applicable links here.
RESOURCES FOR SMALL FOOD PROCESSORS AND POTENTIAL ENTREPRENEURS
DEPARTMENT OF FOOD SCIENCE - PENN STATE UNIVERSITY
CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE STARTING A SMALL FOOD-PROCESSING BUSINESS
SO YOU WANT TO BE A FOOD MANUFACTURER . . .
DO'S AND DON'TS FOR FOOD PROCESSOR
ADVENTURES IN COPACKING
PUBLICATIONS FOR DEVELOPING A FOOD BUSINESS
So that should give you a good overview of the steps it takes to get
your product from your kitchen to the consumers.
As a side note, what I did notice in doing this research for you is
that most of the resources for food entrepreneurs are targeted to
rural farmers people who are trying to move crop-based products to
the retail market. I think this why we see so many programs in places
like Iowa, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Northern California. I was
hard-pressed to find anything in the LA area. I'm afraid, in order to
find those, you are going to have to follow up personally with some of
the small business support organizations that I've provided you links
If anything I've said isn't clear, or if any links don't work, please
feel free to ask for clarification.
With regard to your marketing question, I don't think I'm going to
have the time to do it justice this week. Before you re-post it
however, take a good look at the sources I've provided to you here.
Many of them offer information on marketing food products. If they
don't give you what you need, go ahead and post your question and I'm
sure one of the other researchers will provide you with a
Thanks so much for your question and good luck with your food venture!
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