Ecommerce tools for your food business

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Ecommerce for Home Kitchen Business

Some of the world's most famous food entrepreneurs started their businesses in their home kitchen. Martha Stewart, Paul Newman, and the cookie magnate Debbie Fields, better known as Mrs. Fields, all started their food empires from their own homes.

You may not choose to make the sacrifices to turn your at-home enterprise into a billion-dollar company. But if you have a knack for cooking or baking, and you have a home kitchen, you can establish a solidly profitable business, especially with the advantages of ecommerce.

Ecommerce Tools for the Home Kitchen Business

If you are interested in selling food from home, there are a few things that you should know up front about how to start a small cooking business from home. Every home-based food business cooking from home to sell and selling home cooked food to the public needs to follow certain government-established regulations. These regulations differ slightly from state to state and from city, but in general, the rules tend to cover things like:

  • In the United States, every home kitchen business is governed by state cottage food laws.
  • Cottage food laws tell you what you can offer, where and how you can offer your creations, and how much you can earn before you trigger requirements for commercial food manufacturing licenses. In many states, you'll need to work from a "commercial kitchen" to sell any food to the public at all.
  • People who sell food made at home need food handling permits. These permits aren't hard to get, and are often very low cost. You just take a short course in a class or online.
  • Sellers must label their products as made at home and not FDA inspected, that is, unless they are actually FDA inspected. More about that in a moment.
  • Home kitchen entrepreneurs can't sell foods requiring refrigeration.

Meeting state and local food handling regulations has to be at the top of every starting a food business checklist. Once you are sure you can meet the requirements to have any kind of home kitchen business, then you can start thinking about how you will sell what you cook and bake.

Ecommerce for home kitchen business makes the process a lot easier. You may be saying to yourself, "Wait. Can you sell homemade food online?" The answer is "Yes!"

Here's what you need to know about selling homemade food through ecommerce. As always, check your local regulations before making any final decisions. 

  • If you are using the Internet to sell goods that your customers pick up at a farmer's market or at a retail store or restaurant, you may not be regulated by the FDA. You have to comply with city, county, and state regulations, but you don't have to deal with FDA registration or FDA inspectors.
  • If you are using the Internet to arrange for pickup of your cooked or baked goods from your home or you are shipping them to customers in your state, you have to comply with local and state regulations, but you don't have to register with or get inspections by the FDA.
  • If you start supplying ingredients for someone else's kitchen, like selling raw cookie dough to a bakery, then you have lots of regulations about licenses and record keeping. These regulations are an advanced topic beyond the scope of this article.

Selling homemade food on Amazon is possible, but you'll need FDA permits and inspections. Selling on food selling websites owned by others may be possible, especially if you are selling low risk foods like specialty breads, cookies, candy, pickles, and nuts, but a wonderful thing about ecommerce for home kitchen business ventures is that you can always sell on your own site, and you can even get customers to use an app for selling home cooked food that you’ve set up shop on.

Selling Homemade Food Online

One secret to success for selling homemade food online is to build relationships with your customers. When you are working from your own kitchen, you don't have the ingredients, the time, the kitchen space, the fulfillment tools, or the capital to sell to "everybody on the internet," no matter how great your product is. You need to focus your efforts.

One of the most important considerations of how to sell home cooked food online is to focus on the market you serve. Let's say you have your own almond farm, and you sell fresh almonds, roasted almonds, and all sorts of almond candies and baked goods. 

You want your product to arrive fast. You want your product to arrive fresh. You need to consider both the lowest rates for shipping your wares and how much your customers have to pay to get them.

Your location and your service area affect how you promote your website. Social media advertising is exquisitely calibrated for helping you find the kind of person most likely to buy your product in the geographic location it's profitable for you to serve.

After you have succeeded like Martha Stewart and you have expanded from cooking in your basement to a billion-dollar business, you can sell to the "Internet." But when you are starting out, you'll need to reach new customers by carefully targeted advertising, social media, as well as appearances in person at farmers markets, festivals, and television around your hometown.

Another of the most important tips for home food delivery business success is to use ecommerce software from day one. You need to be able to keep track of inventory. You need to know how much you are earning day by day, week by week, and month by month. You need to make sure all of your orders are fulfilled. And you need to be able to contact customers by email or social media when it's time for them to reorder for next month, next week, or tomorrow.

You generally won't need a special license to sell food online, as long as your customers are covered by your city's, county's, or state's regulations and the licenses you already have.

One More Consideration for How To Start A Small Food Business At Home

It's not unusual to run into some resistance in getting the licenses you need from your city or county or state as you are running down your checklist of how to start a small food business at home or how to start a catering business at home. There is usually an easy way to get around your local health department's objections to licensing you: Rent space in a commercial kitchen.

It's true that when you rent space in a commercial kitchen, you won't be working "at home." But commercial kitchen space, where the facility already has all the licenses required by local governments and sometimes even the FDA, may be available for $10 to $20 an hour. There are commercial kitchens in churches and schools that are made available for free.

If you are baking, a commercial kitchen will have all the counter space you need for mixers, bowls, and pre-measured ingredients. You will have larger ovens, and usually multiple ovens, to get all of your baking for a week done in just a few hours. 

If you are running a home catering business, your clients will often have at least a kitchenette set up for your use. But to have all the room you need to cater a large party, dinner, or luncheon, you need the extra space and extra equipment you can find in a commercial kitchen.

The cost of renting a commercial kitchen is usually more than offset by the time you save in prep work and cooking. The only downside to renting a commercial kitchen is that it is a shared space, and you need to take appropriate precautions in scheduling your time and storing your ingredients.

Food Ideas for Selling Online

Let's get right to the question so many home kitchen entrepreneurs ask: What's an easy food to sell online to make money?

One of the most successful food business from home ideas is selling cookies!

Most people love cookies. They are a food we don't count as we eat. We just want more.

Cookies can be made in batches and kept fresh for sale days or weeks later. They ship well. And when you clients fall in love with your cookies they will buy more and give them away to friends and family.

Cookies are among the most popular of all food business ideas with low investment. They rank high on anybody's list for food business ideas with small capital investment, because the ingredients are inexpensive and there's a market all year found.

What about food delivery business ideas?

The saying used to be that if you can make a great hamburger, you will always find customers. In the 2020's, we probably should expand that idea to one of the best homemade food products to sell is a great sandwich. Sandwiches are among the top take away food business ideas, too.

The secret to sandwich sales is to make a great sandwich that your customers can't, or won't, make for themselves. Maybe the secret sauce of your sandwich business success is an actual secret sauce. Maybe it's ingredients that you can buy in bulk but most people won't buy just to make one sandwich. Maybe it's the unique combination of freshness and flavor with a good value that will keep your customers coming back for more.

Also on the top of the list of anybody's home-based food business ideas is a food in a jar business. When people eat food in a jar, they feel like they are limiting their calories, but they can look down at a round jar and all they see is your delicious food product. The psychology of selling food in a jar is your customers will feel like they are eating a lot while they think they aren't. And jars are easy for carrying food on the run.

How to Start a Packaged Food Business

Another great business idea for your home kitchen business run by ecommerce is selling prepackaged food online. Think about it: How many times have you seen clever displays of nuts and all the things you can make from them, chili peppers and all the things you can make from them, or maybe an online candy shop?

People love treats in small (and large) packages. Selling prepackaged food — which will need to be food that doesn't need refrigeration — can liberate you from day to day cooking and baking chores and let you focus on selling. (Of course, you could always add mason jar meals to your food truck or catering business.) It can also be the perfect match to using a commercial kitchen. You prepare big batches of prepackaged food in a large kitchen with everything you need, and you don't have to deal with disruption in your home.

We have just one precautionary note for starting a packaged food business, and that concerns selling prepackaged food for resale. When you start selling anything for resale, you run into lots more rules and regulations. Your buyers will need to be able to prove that your products contain the ingredients you list on the label. That means keeping records of inventory in and out. If your buyers take your products across state lines, then you may have to start dealing with federal regulations. The FDA may require you to get a prepackaged food license or even to file reports.

Selling prepackaged food in California will require a license from your county health department. You will need to be very sure that you do not sell to retail establishments if you have a direct-to-consumer license, or vice versa. If you are planning on selling prepackaged food in Texas, your state cottage food laws will limit you to selling food from your home or delivered directly to your customers. Other states make similar fine distinctions in what licenses really permit you to do.

But here's a general rule:

You make more money when you sell directly to your consumers. Don't get greedy for bigger sales at lower profit margins with far more hassles.

Do I need a license to sell homemade food?

Now that we have given you an overview of how to start a food delivery business from home, how to start a takeaway business from home, how to start a catering business with no money, and whether you need a permit to sell food from home, let's take a quick look at some distinctions for at-home food businesses in different countries.

How to Start a Catering Business from Home in Canada

Rules and regulations are different in every province, but generally to meet all of your province's rules you will need to work from a commercial kitchen

How to Start a Small Food Business at Home in the Philippines

The Philippines abounds in customers for at-home food businesses, and the regulatory climate is relaxed. But to stand out in the crowd, at-home food businesses in the Philippines need to harness the power of social media.

How to Start a Food Business from Home in India

In most states in India, you won't be allowed to sell food you make in your home. But commercial kitchens are available for rent by the hour at temples and churches.

A food business you run from home can be your path to a reliable income. Just remember one item of kitchen equipment that can make the difference between failure and success: Your computer. Using the right ecommerce software for your home-based food business from day one can make a huge difference in your growth and profits.

Additional Resources

App for Home Chefs | ‍App for Home Food | App for Selling Home Cooked Food | App to Sell Homemade Food | Bookkeeping Software for Food Businesses | Ecommerce for Home Kitchen Business | Food Costing Software | Home Kitchen Management App | Home Kitchen Management Platform | Home Kitchen Management Software


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