How do I start a specialty food business?

The following outline is a good procedure to follow when attempting to start a specialty food business.

The Product

    • Develop a prototype, test it out on people. Collect and incorporate feedback (flavor, texture, appearance).
    • Determine the market form (shelf-stable, refrigerated/frozen, baked, canned).
    • Determine the batch size for start-up, commercial operation. (Typical is 5-10 gallons for liquids or 15-25 lbs for solids).
    • Consult a process authority.
      • Does the formulation/process need to be changed for safety?
      • What testing is needed?
    • Process Authority and Scheduled Process
    • Determine the cost of your approved, scaled-up recipe.

The Business Plan

    • Write a business plan to help you focus on business goals and funding needs.
    • Consider getting liability insurance.
    • Regulate your business within state (or federal if interstate).


Nutrition Labels

    • Decide on a product name.
    • Choose a size and shape compatible with your packaging.
    • Decide if you want to invest in a bar code. Membership fee of $750. Large stores require bar codes.
    • Labels have to meet the FDA requirements for font size/information.

Market Decisions

    • Write a marketing plan.
    • Decide where you will sell your product.
    • Determine a selling price; consider your competition's price and your financial needs.
    • Develop a distribution method (your car, the mail, a distributor, broker).


    • Decide where you will product your product (commercial kitchen, pilot plan, co-packer).
    • Find storage space for ingredients, packaging, and final product.
    • Schedule time at these product facilities.

For more information contact Adair Hoover at (Food2Market Coordinator).