A Win for California's Chef Entrepreneurs (& for You)
Looks like "foodpreneurs" in California got a huge boost from the state government.
Thanks to the Homemade Food Act on Jan. 1, Golden State chefs are able to produce and sell a relatively broad range of products (including baked goods, churros, and tortillas) from home--instead of from a commercial kitchen.
The new provision permits California DIY cooks to sell their “non-hazardous” food wares to restaurants and grocery stores for gross annual revenue of up to $35,000 in 2013. (Food makers must use a licensed commercial kitchen if their revenues exceed the limit, which will be raised to $45,000 in 2014 and $50,000 in 2015.)
The news means California joins a list of states that are food entrepreneur-friendly.
North Carolina’s "cottage food laws" (as they are called), which fall along similar lines, are credited with being among the country’s most progressive. The state permits the sale of homemade baked goods, jams and jellies, candies, dried mixes, spices, and pickles, as well as some sauces and liquids.
“North Carolina divides things into risk categories,” explained Nick Hawthorne-Johnson, who co-owns The Cookery, a kitchen incubator in Durham. “Items they consider to be low risk, they allow you to make in your house. It’s very clear that their goal is to make sure people don’t get sick.” Home producers are not allowed to sell refrigerated or frozen products; low acid canned foods, dairy, seafood, or bottled water.
In other states, however, that health risk is precisely what keeps restrictive cottage food laws in place.
Alabama, for example, has a limited cottage food law, allowing residents to operate home-based bakeries or process foods for farmers’ markets. Kentucky allows farmers to grow, harvest and process limited food products in their kitchens for sale at farmers markets and certified roadside stands. Connecticut, on the other hand, generally prohibits the sale of homemade food across the board, though the legislative wording suggests a bit of wiggle room.
States that permit cottage food sales, Hawthorne-Johnson said, offer entrepreneurs a springboard. And the results are mutually beneficial.
“To ramp their cooking up into a business that employees people and generates substantial tax revenue, there is a very measureable economic benefit to the state for sure,” he added.
JULIE STRICKLAND covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurial endeavors of all kinds for Inc. Her work has been published in Brooklyn Based and City Limits in New York, the Free Times in Columbia, SC, Real Travel Magazine in London, and Daegu Pockets in South Korea. She lives in New York City.
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