Question: How Do I Start a Food Business in Collier County?

Question: I’m an entrepreneur looking to start a food product related business in Collier County. But where do I start? How can I find information on business planning, product development and regulations? And what process do I need to go through to sell my food product to restaurants or large grocery store chains?

Collier County is an excellent place to start a food business. With easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables nearly year-round and a strong business-minded community, Collier County offers a number of resources to people looking to start their own food business —but where should you start?

Similar to farming, before you even think about what to plant or what type of land to buy, you need to do some good old business planning.

The most successful businesses are clear, research-based, realistic and ultimately can help you get the financing you need to be successful. Those interested in investing in your business will need to see a clear plan of what you intend to do, and how you’re going to make the business sustainable.

The following information is a list of resource intended to help you determine the feasibility of starting a food business in Collier County. The reality is that most food businesses fail in their first year. Starting a food business is a process. So remember that along with research, planning and capital, determination is equally important.

Business Planning & Development

Business planning is a way to strategically create the vision for your product or business. And it doesn’t just stop with creating a plan; it’s a great tool for ongoing management of marketing, operations, human resources and finances. Business planning is also key in communicating information to lenders, partners and other stakeholders:



Understanding what regulations apply are a challenge for many small businesses and particularly food related businesses due to the importance of safety requirements. Some of the requirements apply to all food businesses and some are specific to the type of food you produce, such as low-acid canned food, seafood or juice.

What you are producing, where you are producing it, where you are selling your product, what ingredients you have in it, how you are your processing it, how much you are producing will depend on who you are regulated by. These agencies are: Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation , Florida Department of Health , U.S Department of Agriculture , and/or the U.S. Food & Drug Administration .

Sometimes, depending on the product, you will fall under multiple agencies. These agencies want to help you make your business a success but keep in mind that consumer health and safety is their number one priority. These agencies will be able to tell you if your food product falls within their purview. Be realistic and flexible about tweaking your plans, if needed.


Product Development

Product development information can be difficult to find because of the large variation in products. UF/IFAS Extension faculty, UF Food Scientists and even co-packers are all good resources when researching product development. The key here is to identify what specific issues and questions you need to ask related to your product such as, ‘How do I improve texture; how do I measure shelf life?; how do I adjust acidity?” and so on. The following resources can help you develop those questions:



Production consists of identifying where you will produce your product and how to obtain reliable supplies, equipment and ingredients. Production can take place at a commercial kitchen, co-packer facility or in special conditions even in your home-kitchen (see the note below about the “Cottage Food Law”). A quick Google search may also connect you with shared commercial kitchen space that is available for rent in Collier County.

  • Review the “How to Start a Food Business: Introduction” publication on steps to consider at the production level:
  • Collier County Accelerator @ Immokalee is a membership based commercial kitchen and processing facility that will be open to the public in 2018 and may be able to help get your business to the next level :


Selling Your Product

A good way to sell to restaurants is by directly approaching them. There are many locally owned restaurants, grocery stores, chefs and breweries in Collier County that are interested in supporting a local food system. Several good guides exists online on how to approach restaurants. Selling through major retailers is a similar process but with more requirements, especially in terms of packaging. If you plan on approaching multiple retailers, you might consider using a Food Broker. Food Brokers work on commission and can provide advice on how to market your product and approach multiple retailers as part of their services.


A Note About “Cottage Food Law”

If all of this information is completely overwhelming, you may consider developing your product under the “Cottage Food Law”. The intent of the Cottage Food Law is to help small producers and processors to start a food business with minimal regulatory requirements and licensing. In fact, the Cottage Food Law exempts you from obtaining any food permits.

Cottage Foods must be developed in your home residence kitchen. While the requirements significantly limits the types of food you can process, it may be a good place to get your feet wet and develop your product without investing in commercial kitchen space and large overhead costs. It can also be a great way to test your market and see if you want to take the leap into a bona-fide food business.


UF/IFAS Workshops

Check the UF/IFAS website and blog to learn about upcoming UF/IFAS workshops that will be offered such as, “How to Start a Food Business in Florida” . This, and similar workshops, will provide participants with general information on food safety and quality, basic food science, business planning, and federal and state regulatory requirements for food businesses.

For more information contact:

Jessica M. Ryals 
Sustainable Food Systems Agent 
UF IFAS Extension, Collier County 
14700 Immokalee Road, Naples, Fl  34120 
Office 239-252-4800

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Posted: January 30, 2018

Category: Agribusiness, Agriculture, Food Safety, Natural Resources, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Agribusiness, Business Development, Business Planning, Collier County, Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, Food Business, Food Systems, Jessica Ryals, Product Development, Product Marketing, Production, Sustainability


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Jessica M. Ryals

March 30, 2022

Yes, there is. All information can be found here:

Hamutahl Cohen

March 11, 2022

Great comment! I have read that sago palm is susceptible to ganoderma sadly...

Yvonne Florian
February 28, 2022

When folks who have lost a palm to ganoderma here, they usually want something that looks like a palm. Here in Indian River County, I suggest 3 plants which sort-of resemble palms: Sago Palm, which is a cycad but really resembles a plam Ponytail palm, which is not a plam nor a cycad and Pandanus, or "Screw Pine", which is neither a palm nor a pine but a very interesting tropical plant with a very large, interesting round cone-type seed pod when mature and spiraling leaf arrangement.

January 23, 2022

I admire your blog , it has of lot of information. You just got one perennial visitor of this blog!

August 11, 2021

Very, very expensive

Michael Sipos

June 24, 2021

That's a tricky one as slippers/bulldozers are not as targeted by commercial divers and I don't believe many slippers get caught in regular spiny lobster traps. I would reach out to some local seafood houses to see if they get them in occasionally, request them from a distributor or if they get some of their product by divers, ask if you could make a request or be contacted when they come in. I know a few Tampa area commercial divers and I believe they sell their speared fish to Shelly's Seafood and would check with them Good luck!

June 24, 2021

I am looking to buy 20 lb of slipper lobster bulldozer lobster spiny lobster and looking for some place in Tampa area to purchase them

June 1, 2021

I want to give thanks to you for sharing such good information

June 1, 2021

pretty good informative

April 20, 2021

Is there a membership for this program?

Michael Sipos

March 29, 2021

Hi Earl, I would be happy to take a look at a picture, my email address is Cane toads and other invasive species are usually/can be more common in urban and disturbed areas where the native critters are pushed out leaving an open ecological niche. I did a search of the Everglades Conservation Area 2 A and looks like it backs up to some urban areas on the East side. The FWC promotes reporting sightings of invasive species as the best form of management is early detection and rapid response before the species become established. You could report the sighting on the I've Got One app or on this website (url below), you can also see where some invasive critters have been spotted/reported as well . For cane toads they may not mobilize a response as they have been established but researchers could find the information useful and interesting if they are moving more towards rural undisturbed areas. -Mike

Earl Mallory
March 27, 2021

I got this last night in Everglades Conservation Area 2A. miles from anything dry. It looks like a cane toad and is the size of a bullfrog. secretions from the glands behind the head. if it is a cane toad, and they are reproducing, bad news for natvive glades frogs. i cant figure out how to attach photos but glad to email to you.

Ken Robertson
January 8, 2021

Great video on sheepshead feeding. Thanks for posting this.

Judith Bergauer
October 30, 2020

Our HOA is requiring residents to hire a tree trimming company to remove the royal palm seed pods ($55 per tree). Do you have any written materials to support nature's "self pruning" of royal palms? The royal palms on our property have never been pruned but the new HOA is determined to excessively prune these palms. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Doug Caldwell "Dr. Dougbug"

October 1, 2020

I just watched NBC2 news with Twyla Leigh and the Vanilla Bean vine plant. My friend, Dr. Henry Herman, Professor at FSW in Fort Myers, gave me a cutting of his plant and it was amazing how healthy it was and grew to flower. I had moved from that home, but would love to have samples to grow at my home in South Fort Myers. I am a master gardener and would love to help produce more Vanilla Bean Orchid plants. Please contact Twyla Leigh at

Suzy Callanan
September 24, 2020

I just watched NBC2 news with Twyla Leigh and the Vanilla Bean vine plant. My friend, Dr. Henry Herman, Professor at FSW in Fort Myers, gave me a cutting of his plant and it was amazing how healthy it was and grew to flower. I had moved from that home, but would love to have samples to grow at my home in South Fort Myers. I am a master gardener and would love to help produce more Vanilla Bean Orchid plants.

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Michael Sipos

September 22, 2020

Hi Albrey, The pictures are great! I believe there is a huge value of having real fish pictures for identification. I'm beginning to stockpile photos of distinguishing characteristics for all the species I now catch/do a segment on. I'm trying to do a species profile/fillet video a week on edible fish found in Florida on our Collier County Sea Grant Facebook page

Albrey Arrington
September 22, 2020

Nice to see you using the helpful species identification clues provided in Fish Rules App. Swipe pics in Fish Rules App to see additional images and identification clues.

suba suba
June 11, 2020

the internet. You actually know how to bring a problem to light

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Michael Sipos

June 8, 2020

Thank you for your kind words! If there are any invasive species you're interested in particular, I would be happy to answer your questions or put you in contact with an expert within the University of Florida network. Feel free to reach out with any requests or ideas for future programming. Have a good one!

Murphy Mary
June 5, 2020

This short article was such a good read that will I will definitely recommend it to the friends! The last moment I’ve read some thing as professionally composed was with at Thank a person for the professionalism and a watch regarding details. Is going to be pleased to read a lot more of your respective writing!

Gaylene Vasaturo
May 11, 2020

Thanks for your info--i didn't realize this was the problem with my porterweed until the plants were quite infected with the caterpillars. I've cut the stems as you suggest...but continually find many I've missed. The infestation is pretty established. What's the best course of action? I've cut back the porterweed substantially, but probably the moths are around and will continue to infect. If I remove the porterweed completely...and start over, must I continually (almost daily) check the plants for infestation? I've had the plants for a few years before the problem occurred.

Gaylene Vasaturo
May 3, 2020

i have a big infestation of this on my native porter weed. Didn't really notice it until it has really devasted my plants an is spreading. It is overwhelming the plants. The caterpiller appears to burrow down inside the stem and then the branch dies. It may be too late for me to control it by just cutting the infected stems out. How do I get these insects under control. Do I need to remove all the porter weed and let the ground remain dormant for a while? I have the infestation in my backyard, but have porterweed in the front also, and I observed early signs of infestation in the front. Would appreciate your advice. So glad you've identified my problem.

Angel Raudner
January 21, 2020

Thank you so much! Wish so many of my "natives" and Florida friendly, like Wild Coffee, were a bit more cold sensitive. Not sure how I'll have time and ability to protect my 100' hedge row, but we'll give it a valiant try.

Rancho Cordova Tree
January 9, 2020

You're very right about that! We completely agree!

North Shore
December 27, 2019

I want to give thanks to you for sharing such good information!! North Shore Tree Services

Tree Surgeon Hastings
September 23, 2019

Great Share! Hastings Tree Surgeon

August 22, 2019

Cool stuff. Tree Service

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Jessica M. Ryals

December 3, 2018

George, let's set up a time to talk! Give the Extension Office a ring: 239-252-4800 - Jessica

September 21, 2018

Who do I need too talk to the bosses on location??? Am a great talented Chef wanting my own business truck.And knowing dealing Bosses but you. Z And to put healthy great food for the tourists. I leave here for 5years and know know proveries and fisherman.. Gradauted CIAn 2005, like to know permits and costs before I get a food truck please let me know. Best Regards, George Vassilev

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Jessica M. Ryals

September 4, 2018

Hi Seth, the event has already passed. Feel free to call our Collier County Extension Office at 239-252-4800.

Seth Trombley
August 31, 2018

Hi I want to buy 2 tickets to the Collier county tropical fruit road tour please give me a number to contact someone the link is not working for me. thank you

Doug Caldwell "Dr. Dougbug"

August 28, 2018

For the royal poinciana caterpillar, carbaryl or a pyrethroid (bifenthrin) should work. Remember just to spray the bole of the tree from the ground up to 3 or 4 feet. No need to spray the canopy as explained in the posted FSHS article.

Drew Ellison
August 28, 2018

So what do we use to kill them? Seven?

Annette Brody
July 18, 2018

Love the pics!!!!

joyce berkoski
March 15, 2018

Can't seem to be able to sign up for the ag tour. Would like to go, are there any available seats left. Thanks, Joyce Berkoski 239 732 5847

Kathy O’Connor, Driftwood Landscape
December 8, 2017

I want to compliment Jill for being the Naples face of American Farms. She is innovative knowledgeable and personable. You have a true Gem!

Dr. Steve Hardiman, Ed. D
December 6, 2017

We in Iowa followed the hurricane devastation in Naples and its impact on American Farms. Kudos to Alex and the employees for their efforts to rebuild.

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