How to Start a Food Company

Packaged pretzel sticks
Packaged pretzel sticks (Image: Wikimedia Commons, Michail)

Starting a food company can be exciting and lucrative, but there are many regulations and steps that must be followed. No matter if you want to start a restaurant or produced bottled water, many of the regulations for starting a food business are the same. To ensure that your new food business is successful, take the time to make sure you cover the essential basics.

Things You'll Need

  • Licenses and Permits
  • Access to a Food Testing Lab
  • Product Labels
  • Manufacturing Facility or Commercial Kitchen

Determine what type of food products you will sell. You may want to produce pre-packaged foods such as cookies and pretzels, deli items such as packaged sandwiches and wraps, hot or cold catered food, or farmed foods such as artisan cheeses and organic meats.

If your new food company will be a restaurant, bakery, or food delivery service, it will be more expensive to launch than most other types of food businesses.

Get your state's required licenses. No matter what type of food company you start, you will need to acquire food permits ranging from food handling certificates to inspection certificates allowing you to manufacture food at a certain location. The type and number of licenses and permits you will need depends upon the type of food company you have, how the food is produced and packaged, and where the food is served.

Have your food products tested to determine their nutritional value. If you sell packaged food, in all likelihood you will need to place a label on the package stating its nutritional value. These values most be as accurate as possible, and to obtain nutritional data, most food companies send samples of their products to a food testing lab. Alternatively, you can develop an in-house testing lab if you have the money to do so.

Have proper labels made for your food products. Most packaged food products require a label on them that gives consumers important information about allergens, ingredients, and where the food was made. Depending upon what type of food you produce, your label may need to contain certain specific information such as the net weight of the product and its country of origin.

Develop a marketing plan. Marketing ideas for food businesses include: providing products for special event gift bags or non-profit events, advertising promotions and coupons; sending free samples with orders; gaining media coverage of your company through public relations to increase customer awareness. Also, having a Website, whether or not you sell your food products online, is a great marketing tool that will give your company a global presence.

Find a licensed, dependable place to have your food products manufactured. If you have a large food company, you will likely need to contract with a full-service, large scale food production factory. If you have a smaller food company, you may only need to secure space in a commercial kitchen to produce your products. Either way, ensure that the facility you use is clean and licensed to be a food production facility.

Contract with distributors and stores to sell your products. For some food companies, this means having products placed in major chain grocery stores or shopping channels through sales representatives. For smaller food companies, distribution may mean having food products placed in local bakeries, specialty stores, or fairs.

Tips & Warnings

  • Get business and liability insurance whether your state requires it or not to protect your business legally and financially. It is best to anticipate needing insurance than to be in a situation without coverage.
  • Do not try to start a food business without obtaining your state's required licenses and permits. Doing so could cause you to be fined, and your food business may be shut down.

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