Anybody who has ever dreamed of starting a food business or even taken a business class has heard the story of Debbi Fields, a young mother with nothing but a killer chocolate chip cookie recipe and enough ambition to turn her sweet treats into an international franchise business.
Even back in 1977, when Mrs. Fields opened its first shop, it wasn’t as simple as baking a few batches and opening the door. But it’s even more complicated today for foodies to fulfill their dreams of making a living from their homemade food. It’s against the law in many states to sell food made in a home kitchen, which means if you’re serious about trying to make a go of an artisan-food business, you have to find a commercial-grade kitchen in which to cook your products.
But the rules are starting to change. In many states, the rise of foodie culture and growing consumer demand for locally produced artisan jam, pickles, baked goods and other foodstuff are hastening the transition. About 30 states have a “cottage-food law” that allows the sale of some goods made in a home kitchen, and a California lawmaker is promoting an effort by the Sustainable Economies Law Center to change the law there, Grist reported.
A measure under consideration in New Hampshire would allow residents to sell less than $10,000 a year worth of baked goods, jam and even homemade cheese without obtaining a license. The bill aims to give fledgling food companies an affordable way to get started, New Hampshire Public Radio reported.
In addition to food-safety concerns, much of the debate about cottage-food legislation stems from concerns by small food companies that have invested in commercial kitchens and equipment and obtained necessary licenses under the old rules. But even many of them say they welcome more players onto the field, according to Grist. The fewer barriers to entry into farmers markets, the better for the consumer. You’re going to see a real flourish of creativity and interesting recipes, said sauerkraut-maker Kathryn Lukas, who started Farmhouse Culture in 2008.
Aspiring food artisans in some states are finding that law changes might be only the first step toward being able to launch an enterprise. Foodies cheered when Texas lawmakers passed a cottage-food law last year, but the Department of State Health Services has since unveiled a slate of rules that some say threaten to make the process even more onerous, Texas Eats blogger Robb Walsh wrote, urging citizens to get involved during public comment.
Have you tried to start an artisan-food business? Does your restaurant support local, homemade-food producers? Tell us in the comments.