Developing your specialty food product
Steps for a Small Scale Food Business
As a Michigan State University Product Center counselor, I often hear my clients tell me about a great family recipe that they would like to use to start a small-scale food business. However, the process of making it safe for human consumption and government regulated is a key, and often overlooked, ingredient.
A Northeast Center for Food Entrepreneurship fact sheet, "Steps To Start A Specialty Food Business" lists the initial steps to getting a food product tested and ready for production.
- Take your recipe (AKA your prototype), and test it out on people. Collect and incorporate feedback on flavor, texture and appearance.
- Determine whether your product will be shelf-stable, refrigerated, frozen, baked, canned, etc. which is your “market form.”
- Determine how much you will make in each batch size for commercial production. A good start-up size for a liquid product (dressings, etc.) is 5-10 gallons. For solid product, consider a 15-25 pound batch.
- Consult a Process Authority to scale up your recipe. A Process Authority serves as an expert in regulatory processes. Take the following into consideration:The formulation may change due to regulatory and food safety requirements; testing (pH, water activity, etc.) may be required for compliance with regulations; It may take several attempts to achieve a scaled-up product comparable to the original; ingredient amounts will not change proportionately. For example, you may double the tomato sauce in a BBQ recipe but find you only need to slightly increase the amount of garlic.
- Get approval for your recipe from a Process Authority. This resulting document, a Scheduled Process, will help avoid product safety and quality issues.
- Determine the cost of ingredients based on your approved, scaled-up recipe.
The above steps and more are explained in a fact sheet, "Steps To Start A Specialty Food Business." This document is a publication of the Northeast Center for Food Entrepreneurship at the New York State Food Venture Center.