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There has been a huge influx of home-based chefs and artisans who are selling food. Since 2018, New York has experienced a nearly 300% increase in the number of those making food at home and selling it to the public. As of July 2021, the state reported more than 8000 registered home food processors.
Can I sell food from my house? A lot of people want to know! Last year, Americans gobbled down more than $2 trillion worth of food.
Forbes reports that there has never been more interest in local, minimally processed, non-GMO, and organic foods and beverages. People want to know more about what they are putting into their bodies - and that opens up a lot of opportunities for those who enjoy prepping healthy, wholesome foods at home!
The allure of becoming a home food producer/seller is real. Heavy hitters in this industry include Martha Stewart, Paul Newman, Racheal Ray, and Debbie Fields, all of whom began their journeys to riches and fame through food by prepping foods at home.
As new societal standards like social distancing continue to reshape world societies, more chefs, cooks, and other foodies are considering how nice it would be to cook food from home and sell it for profit. They already have the kitchen and the desire to launch a home food production operation.
So what does it take to make it in this industry? Is it worth the time and monetary investments required to try breaking into this burgeoning marketplace? It might be but there are challenges that you’re bound to face along the way.
But everything worth doing has challenges, right?
Cottage Food Meaning: Selling homemade food online or in-person is governed by rules and regulations that are specific to each state. Many states have been enhancing their cottage food laws, especially since the advent of COVID-19.
Do I need a license to sell homemade food? It’s possible. State legislatures enact cottage food laws for each state. They mandate rules about selling home cooked food to the public. These laws are enforced either by the state’s Department of Agriculture or by local county health departments.
Cottage food laws also limit the types of foods that a home-producer can sell. They also dictate how home-based food products are to be labeled, where they may be sold, and the maximum amount of money a home food producer can net in a given time period. Each state has unique cottage food laws.
Food freedom and cottage food laws are written to make it easier for small home-based food producers to sell their goods. They allow entrepreneurs to try their hands at the food production industry on a small scale - without having to comply with the numerous expenses and legalities associated with launching a large commercial food preparation facility.
It varies by state, but in general, an approved cottage foods list will include various foods that do not need to be refrigerated. Foods that require refrigeration are prone to spoiling and the spread of food-borne bacteria.
Although this limits the types of foods that a home producer can make and sell, there are still a lot of options to consider. Some of the most popular products home producers offer are:
There are loads of other foods that home producers can sell. However, it varies by state and even locality in some cases. You’ll have to check with your local county health department or your state’s Department of Agriculture to be sure about the details that pertain to you.
Wondering how to sell food from home legally? Although the rules differ by state, there are some generalities you can count on, including:
Now, let’s take a closer look at the cottage food laws in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas:
Selling food from home in Los Angeles and the rest of California can be profitable, especially in today’s broadening market for wholesome foods produced in small kitchens. California residents may be considered one of two types of cottage food producers: Type A and Type B.
Class A cottage food operations in CA are ONLY permitted to sell directly to consumers. Acceptable sales venues include farmer’s markets, special events like fairs, and food stands. Sales may take place via telephone or the Internet. In most cases, delivery services like FedEx and UPS are not allowed to be used to deliver home-produced food products.
Class B cottage food laws in CA allow the producer to sell to consumers directly and indirectly. This means that third-party retailers may be employed to broaden the public reach and thereby increase profits. Many restaurants act as third-party retailers for California-based home food producers.
Florida continues to enhance its cottage food laws. The state makes it quite simple for home food producers to start selling and earning. There are no license, training, or inspection requirements to meet. Many food types are allowed including bread, condiments, candies, dry goods, extracts, and preserves.
Selling food from home in Illinois can be profitable but you can only sell your goods at farmer’s markets. Currently, all other venue types are prohibited, including special events, online sales, restaurants, retail stores, roadside stands, mail orders, catering, or wholesaling.
2021 proposed legislation (HB 2615) is awaiting the Governor’s signature. It would go into effect on January 1, 2022, and allow producers to sell at venues that are now prohibited.
New cottage food law NY 2020: New York was one of the hardest-hit states when COVID-19 struck. The interest in home food production skyrocketed. Cottage food laws in New York now allow home food processors to sell in retail stores, restaurants, and other indirect venues. The state has roughly three times the number of home food producers than it did in 2018.
Texas does not require home food producers to obtain licenses. However, they must complete a training course for home food handlers. Indirect selling to restaurants and groceries is not permitted. Vendors may sell at farmer’s markets, roadside stands, and special events. They may also make sales via the Internet or from their homes. A producer’s annual allowable sales are limited to $50,000.
Cottage food regulations are created to reduce the red tape commonly associated with launching a commercial food preparation operation. They are enacted to create a more level playing field for small, home-based food producers, allowing them to participate in more income-producing ventures.
As stated, each state’s cottage food laws are unique. Some states, like Texas, require home food business owners to complete brief training courses. These courses are quick and affordable, costing only nominal fees to cover the trainer’s time and the permit issued upon completion.
It’s best to call your county health department to find out if you need a permit to sell food from home. Getting a department of health food permit is typically simple and inexpensive. Just ask the receptionist how to get a food vendor license.
Food operations that do not need permits are not subject to inspections. However, different states have different allowable venues to sell your food products at. And only a handful of states allow food vendors to sell indirectly through third parties like restaurants, convenience stores, and grocery stores.
Can I sell food from home? The past year has been unprecedented for the home food production industry. More than half of all the states in the US have attempted to enhance their cottage food laws, although some of the efforts failed or are still in process.
Do you need a license to sell baked goods from home? You might. It depends on the laws where you live. It’s always a good idea to contact your local county health department if you have questions about the legalities of launching a home-based food preparation business.
If the health department doesn’t handle these inquiries where you live, they will certainly be able to direct you to the proper authorities to ask.
Californians are required to obtain permits from their county health departments to sell their homemade food products. If you intend to sell to restaurants and other third-party venues, then make sure to apply for the Class B permit.
The New York Department of Agriculture and Markets states that food vendors offering snack mixes, baked goods, or jellies can apply for a Home Processor Article C-20 Exemption. This exemption allows certain food processors to sell their goods either retail or wholesale across a wide range of venue types.
In Pennsylvania, the government requires food processors to obtain a permit and pay a $35 fee. Each applicant must fill out an Application Packet - Limited Food Establishment. Permit holders are subject to facility inspections and must renew their registrations annually.
Florida allows residents to use their home kitchens to prepare certain types of foods for public sale and consumption. No permit is required for food processors in the Sunshine State. However, there are restrictions on the types of foods that can be sold.
Do you need a license to sell baked goods from home in Florida?
Approved cottage foods in Florida include loaf bread, cookies, rolls, biscuits, cakes, and pastries. You can get full details here from Forrager.
The following states require home food producers to register for permits or licenses: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington DC, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
Currently, the states that DO NOT require home food producers to register, obtain a permit, or obtain a license are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Food Freedom Laws and Cottage Food Laws differ from state to state. Currently, Wyoming is the only state to have adapted full Food Freedom Laws. All other states have some amount of restrictions and laws to abide by.
However, most states are attempting to relax and enhance their cottage food laws, which will allow more home-based food processors to market their goods to broader audiences with fewer earning caps.
Always check the local laws pertaining to food processing, handling, labeling, and shipping before launching any type of food business from home.