Since the rise of the Internet and the financial collapse of 2008, more and more people have been diversifying their marketable skills, looking for profitable “side hustles,” and plying their trades remotely. So it would seem inevitable that many with a passion for all things culinary would seek to cook food items in their homes and sell them online.
Many people have asked the question, “Can I sell food I make at home?” The short answer is, Yes, selling food from home is possible, even common. In fact, Google searches for things like “can I sell food from my house” and “sell homemade food” have skyrocketed in recent years.
The same is true for searches like selling home cooked food to the public, how to start selling baked goods from home, do I need a license to sell homemade food, how to start a food delivery business from home, and many, many more.
Selling home-cooked food to the public is practiced all over the world. But it’s important to learn about the laws and regulations governing selling food from home in your particular location.
An understanding of the cottage food laws where you intend to operate, make, ship, and sell your products is a must. You’ll need to answer a few basic questions such as, how to check if a food business is registered to avoid legal issues. Then, depending on your location, the type of food you intend to sell, and at what quantity, you may need to obtain licenses, permits, and submit to other regulatory measures.
Rules On Selling Food From Home
The rules on selling food from home vary from state to state. Before you obtain a permit to sell food from home, it is wise to check with an expert on the cottage food regulations in your state and decide whether you can do business under the existing legal conditions.
Cottage food laws allow you to prepare certain foods in your home kitchen and legally sell them on a small scale. These laws also vary from one state to the next. The sale of cottage food is typically what you see at farmers' markets. Few states allow such sellers to sell to restaurants and grocery outlets, but in nearly every case, such sellers need to seek approval to sell as a Cottage Food Kitchen.
If you’re wondering, “do I need a license to sell food from my home,” the answer is probably. In some states, you need licensure, permits, and a food hygiene certificate to sell food. In some states, you need two of these or fewer, but baking from home regulations in any location will require at least one of those things, likely more.
Unfortunately, the best advice anyone can give is to check your local laws on selling dinners out your home, since each state is different. Selling food from home to the public can be a lucrative way to pursue your passion for food, but it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re compliant with local laws.
Selling Homemade Food Online
Selling homemade food online is extremely common and it is done by merchants of all types and sizes. Not surprisingly, it is quite a conundrum for regulators to craft laws that can cover all of the ways, places, and food products involved with such sellers. There are far too many small companies selling prepackaged food online all over the country that we cannot possibly cover all of the regulations controlling how they do business.
However, whether you are selling cakes on Facebook or selling homemade food at craft fairs that you advertise online, in the United States, one license you’re going to need is a business license, likely your basic Employer Identification Number. This is simply a way for federal regulators and the IRS to track businesses that have an employee payroll. But it’s a good catch-all for anyone that the federal government wants to keep track of. For that reason, if you intend to sell food online anywhere in the United States, that’s the place to start.
In general, it’s a good idea to study up on your local county or municipality’s rules regarding cottage food businesses. These tips from Shopify are also a good guide for getting your online food business up and running:
- Don’t get people sick. Learn how to properly handle and store food.
- Trace the supply chain. Ask questions of your suppliers and get referrals.
- Work with a lab to test your products. Labs can help identify and trace elements that may be known to cause allergic reactions.
- Keep thorough records. Track everything coming in and going out of your facility.
- Make friends with the food inspector. They are there to identify any issues and set you up for success. “They really offer you some pretty sage and, frankly, free advice on how to make sure you’re making a good and reasonable product,” says Glenford.
- Get liability insurance. Be sure you’re covered in case anyone does get sick.
Selling Food From Home UK
Now, for those of you wondering, “Do you need a license to sell food from home, online or otherwise, in the UK,” the answer is yes, you do. According to Gov.UK, “When you start a new food business[...], you must register with your local authority.”
The good news is that registration is free and in general, you’re approved as long as you pay necessary fees and sign in the right places.
Your business and the foods you sell will be subject to UK laws and regulations. Therefore, before selling cakes to friends and family or selling food online in the UK, you must both register and study any and all regulations laid out by the food standards agency.
You will need to register as self-employed for tax purposes, and to run a business from home you must:
- Get permission from your landlord or mortgage provider
- Get permission from the local council
- Obtain insurance
- Get advice on tax allowances and business rates
- Get advice on health and safety requirements
You can expect to be inspected for food hygiene, allergen management, and traceability. Whether you’re selling cakes from home, selling bread from home, or starting a takeaway business from home, it’s best practice to keep a clean kitchen.