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Starting a New Food Business in the New Year

If you have some kitchen skills and are looking for a way to make some money, a small-scale food business might pay off.

Florida’s Cottage Food Law allows you to make certain foods in your home kitchen to sell without registering your kitchen as a food facility or obtaining food permits. This makes a cottage food business the simplest type of food business to start. The following can be made and sold by individuals under the Cottage Food Law:

  • Bread, cake, pastries, fruit pie, cookies (except those requiring refrigeration, or those with cheese, cream cheese, real butter icing)
  • Candy, confections
  • Honey (only if you harvest it yourself as a beekeeper)
  • Jams, jellies, preserves made from high acid-fruits ONLY
  • Dry herbs, dry herb tea, coffee beans/ground coffee
  • Seasonings and mixtures
  • Homemade pasta
  • Cereal, trail mix, granola
  • Flours, dry baking mixes
  • Coated or uncoated nuts
  • Nut butters (almond, peanut, etc.)
  • Vinegar/flavored vinegar
  • Popcorn, popcorn balls

A cottage food business is allowed to make up to fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) in cottage food sales per year. All cottage foods must be stored at your home and all sales must be made directly to customers. Sales to restaurants, groceries or other retail stores, by mail or on consignment through other stores or vendors are not allowed under the Cottage Food Law. Cottage Foods must be labeled according to the requirements of the Cottage Food Law.

First steps

Making good food and selling it is the easy part of operating a food business. Making a profit with your food business will require some planning.

Calculate the cost to produce each product that you plan to sell; remember to include an hourly cost for your labor. Then you can determine profitable pricing for each product. This is a helpful resource to help you plan your Cottage Food Operation:  Home Canning Budget factsheet (use with Interactive Spreadsheet or printable  Worksheet).

Work with local resources to develop your business idea and write up a plan. In Osceola County, Florida, seminars, individual consultations, and worksheets are available through the Small Business Development Center, UF IFAS Extension, or SCORE.

Launch successfully

If you want other people to take your business seriously, then take your business seriously. Establish your business legally from the beginning so you can qualify for funding and expand to larger markets more easily in the future. Decide what business structure you want to operate under, then register your business with the State of Florida at SunBiz.org. Apply for local County and City Business Tax Receipts.

Small business owners are often responsible for managing all aspects of their businesses themselves, but you don’t have to be an expert at everything or do all the work yourself. You know your products, but maybe you could use some help with graphic design, internet marketing, or accounting, for example.

A few things you can’t do without: A website (a Facebook page isn’t enough), a way to accept credit card payments, and software for record keeping (sales and accounting, managing client orders, etc.).

Manage risks in your business. Select your business partners carefully, have written contracts for any services you obtain or large orders you take, and carry business liability insurance. Obtain food safety certifications through food industry-recognized programs like ServSafe, which offers trainings online or in-person.

Other types of food businesses

What if you want to sell other non-cottage foods? What if you want to sell your products to retail stores or from a food truck? Be aware that regulations for making other processed foods or doing wholesale sales requires the use of a permitted facility outside of your home, food permits, food safety certifications, and other requirements specific to certain products.

As it becomes safer for people to attend more group events, another food-related business to consider would be offering people cooking or food preservation classes.

If you need help researching the requirements for certain food products or sales avenues, contact your local UF IFAS Extension. Initial investments are usually higher for non-cottage food businesses, so research and budget your idea carefully. Learn more about Florida’s Cottage Food Law.

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