I love canning and pepper jelly is my favourite thing to make. My friend Shandra and I spent dozens of hours in my kitchen last summer whipping up new and unique flavours of pepper jelly. We shared these with friends and family who couldn’t get enough of them. They are that good (okay, I might be a little biased). We went to one bazaar around the holidays and not a person who sampled our jellies left our booth empty-handed.
That signalled to us that we were onto something. We know we have a product (or products) that people love. We also know there is nothing like our jellies (which are made without commercial pectin and contain more organic fruits and vegetables than your standard jellies) on the market.
But that seems to all we know. How to grow our hobby into a business is what we don’t seem to know. One of the problems is there is no Cottage Food Industry in Canada. This means that if we want to be able to sell our jellies to the public, we have to prepare it in a commercial kitchen.
What is a Cottage Food Industry?
Cottage Food legislation allows home-cooks and bakers to sell their products to the public. More than 42 US states have passed cottage food legislation — many since 2007 when the US fell into a recession. The legislation made it possible for dreamers to become doers. Cooks and bakers who didn’t have the cash to build a commercial kitchen or rent one by the hour could now take a chance on their killer cakes or award-winning pickles. Each state has different legislation. Some cap the amount a cottage food operator is allowed to make while others leave it open ended.
What I loved immediately about this book is that it didn’t leave us Canadians out of the mix. While the news for us isn’t good, at least it was up front. The second thing that I immediately loved wast that out of all the public health units in all of Canada, the authors happened to choose the one that oversees my area — and there was a little good news there. I still need to clarify, but according to the book there is an exemption for farmers’ markets, so perhaps that is where we market our jellies.
Another thing I immediately loved about the book was the author of the foreward. Nell Newman, as in Newman’s Own Organics (as in Newman’s Own, as in Paul Newman’s daughter), wrote the foreward for the book and shared childhood memories of her father and his quest to make the perfect salad dressing, similar to one at a restaurant they frequented. While Paul Newman started his food business on a whim, we no longer have to thanks to the hard work of authors Lisa Kivirist and John D. Ivanko.
You don’t have to fly by the seat of your pants like Pop did. Homemade for Sale can help you jumpstart your food business, guide your dream and help you make it a reality.
— Nell Newman
Homemade For Sale: How to Set Up and Market a Food Business From Your Home Kitchen
This book covers every aspect of building a home-based food business from recipe creation and marketing to legalities and business structure. It is a comprehensive guide to growing a business out of something you love. Homemade for Sale is not only a step-by-step guide to growing a food business but it is also chalk-full of profiles of people who have done just that. It is both inspirational and educational.
Avoid letting self-doubt creep in or pangs of fear overwhelm you. You can do it. Thousands of other home cooks have.
It’s true. Every product started somewhere. It started with an idea, a recipe. It’s just a matter of knowing where to go from there. If you are like me, you have a great product but don’t know where to go with it, this book is for you.
The book is broken down into four sections. What’s Cooking? addresses cottage food laws and what they allow, setting and evaluating goals and provides tools to navigate your own laws. Selling Your Story: Marketing covers everything from product development and packaging and labelling to sharing your story online. It also covers how to market your product. The next section, Organizing, Planning and Managing the Business gets into the nitty-gritty of starting a home-based food business. This section covers business plans, kitchen organization as well as the types of business ownership and basic bookkeeping. The final chapter is for home-cooks and bakers who are living their dream and want to expand. Scaling Up briefly covers potential next steps and provides resources for those who are serious about taking their cookies or jams to the next level.
Another great thing about this book is the profiles of people who are living their dreams. From home bakers who are making close to $50,000 with their elaborate cake design to farmers making an extra $2,000 by selling pickles, salsas and jam.
There is no cottage food legislation in Canada: Can I sell my home-prepared goods?
The short answer is no. But there is one exception. Farmers are able to sell home-prepared goods as a value-added products from their farm gate stores or at farmers’ markets. So if you are a farmer that has a great recipe for cherry pie or raspberry jam, you can legally sell it to your customers.
The other option available to us Canucks is to rent commercial kitchen space. It sounds expensive but there are some cost-effective options. Most churches and community centres have commercial kitchens that are inspected by public health units. These types of places tend to have lower rental costs than spaces designed for small food business operators.
But for many, myself included, the cost of kitchen space makes making a profit that much more difficult. It’s time for Canada to get on board and follow in the footsteps of our southern neighbour and pass legislation that would allow the sale of home-prepared foods.
It’s time for change
How many of you have a great dessert that everyone begs you to bring to the next office potluck? Or how many of you have family members begging for a jar of your spicy pickles? What’s stopping you from following your dream? Red tape. Layers and layers of it.
The United States wasn’t the only country affected by the recession. Us neighbours to the north have been dealing with our own crises, including the ever-rising cost of energy. By opening the door for cottage food operators, the government will be supporting job creation and the local food movement.
The timing is right. Here are just a few reasons outlined in the book:
- Organics is growing by nine per cent annually. More than 81 per cent of American families say they are trying to purchase some items organic.
- The specialty food business grew by more than 22 per cent between 2010 and 2012.
- Farmers’ markets continue to grow, with a 3.6 per cent increase from 2012 to 2013.
- The cake and bakery market continue to grow at a rate of nearly five per cent.
One Canadian lawyer has already weighed in on the topic and says that with the right safety measures in place, a cottage food industry could succeed in Canada. Carly Dunster suggests that by requiring a safe food handler’s certificate and mandatory cleaning processes, cottage food businesses could receive a certificate in a similar fashion as the DineSafe certificate awarded to restaurants. She also suggests a label stating that the product is made in a home kitchen.
They would provide viable economic opportunities for a growing community of food entrepreneurs, all chomping at the bit to throw their hat (or pie, in this case) in the ring.
— Carly Dunster
So what’s the hold up? Someone needs to push for change. Homemade for Sale has given me the information I need to push for that change. I now have an understanding of legislation that exists to allow for home cooks and bakers to follow their dreams and a list of resources that will further that knowledge base.
If you are a home cook or baker who has a winning recipe, Homemade for Sale has the information you need to take the next step.
I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I am thrilled I was able to find this book and tap into the great information within 209 pages.
Great news for all of you home cooks and bakers. I am giving away a copy of this excellent resource to one lucky reader. That’s right, you can own your very own copy of Homemade for Sale and learn how to grow your home-based food business from a seed into a finished, packaged and labelled product. This book will not only give you the resources, but the confidence to launch your home-based food business.