Irvine resident Yvonne Barrot has launched a food manufacturing business, Bumble Bee in the Kitchen, for a fraction of what it would have cost her two months ago.
She is one of the first people in Orange County to take advantage of the new California Homemade Food Act, which as of Jan. 1, allows entrepreneurs to make certain food products in their home kitchens for commercial sale. Previously, they had to pay thousands of dollars to rent space in a commercial kitchen.
Kitchen Startups: 411
For more information about the new Cottage Food Operations Act:
? Orange County Environmental Heath Division: ocfoodinfo.com/cottage, 714-433-6000
? "Start a Home-Made Food Business," Orange Coast College, 714-432-5154 or orangecoastcollege.augsoft.net and enter the name of the class
? California Department of Public Health: bit.ly/156CnIL
? AB 1616, the law allowing home-based food businesses, full text: bit.ly/14O54sM
? List of providers of mandatory online class in food handling: bit.ly/14O5kry
"I started making my natural peanut butter crunch bars and other healthy snacks because I wanted something that my kids thought was junk food but was really good for them," said Barrot, a certified personal trainer and fitness expert. Her snacks were popular with friends and at youth sports fundraisers. Now she hopes they will create a profitable business.
The new law, AB1616 authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Burbank, allows small cottage food operations that are regulated by the California Department of Public Health and local health agencies. These home-based manufacturers are allowed annual sales up to $35,000 in 2013 of foods considered unlikely to be contaminated, such as breads, candies, condiments, cereals and jellies that don't contain cream, custard or meat.
Thirty-two states allow home-based commercial food production if sales are direct to the consumer, said Mike Haller, program manager for Orange County's food protection program. "California is one of the first to also allow indirect sales" where consumers buy the food at a store or restaurant rather than directly from the manufacturer.
These cottage food operators, however, can't sell their products outside California, so most Internet sales are out, he said.
The new law already is attracting interest from people who want to try their own recipes in the commercial marketplace. Haller said his office has received about 20 to 25 applications and has approved them all.
After the law passed, Caron Ory, owner of Sapere Natural Foods LLC in Fountain Valley agreed to teach a class at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa about how to start a home-based food business. "The first class (limit 30 students) filled up immediately with 65 on the waiting list," Ory said, "so I'm (committed to teach) five classes now, and the college called me yesterday and wanted me to add two more classes."
Ory knows how expensive a startup food manufacturing operation can be. She is the creator of Eco-Bee, an alternative to sugar for diabetics.
"I created my product in my home kitchen but had to go directly into large-scale, contracted production and the cost was tremendous," she said. "I want to get the word out because it can be a great opportunity for individuals to supplement their income."
She spent $35,000 for her first batch of 6,000 pounds of Eco-Bee before she even knew if anyone would buy it because contract kitchens require minimum orders. Under the new law "you can start a cottage food business for maybe $1,000 depending on your ingredients and equipment," she said.
Ory's class, which costs $100 plus $15 for materials, will cover every aspect of starting a home-based food business. Separately, the state requires all cottage food operators to take an online food handler class that costs about $13. The course and test should take no more than two hours, Haller said.
Business owners also must pay for county health inspectors to visit and approve their home kitchens. Haller says Orange County charges $25 per 15 minutes and so far inspections seem to take 45 minutes.
"This is a new type of inspection; we want to make sure it is a win-win situation," he said.
The inspection includes verifying that the product's label is correct and that the preparation area meets basic food safety standards, such as storing food for commercial production separately from personal food, cleaning the preparation area and keeping pets out of the area.
"They pointed out things like you don't have a cup of coffee out while I'm making bars," Barrot said. "I keep an organized house so I was in compliance with everything on the checklist."
Haller agreed that Barrot's enterprise was a good example of a home food manufacturer that meets all the standards. "So far it has been a very good experience," he said.
Barrot said she is trying to launch her startup by the book, getting a business license from the city of Irvine in addition to the state-required inspection and certification. "I don't know where this is going to go, but I'm in business. For me, it's the convenience of working out of my own home and not having the overhead of a commercial kitchen."
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