The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Online selling

  • Pin It
PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

Online selling

I've been looking into expanding my very small bakery business.  Right now I'm just selling to co-workers and friends, but have been looking into California regulations for operating a commercial kitchen.  Basically there is no way to convert any home operation to something that would pass the California Retail Food Code.  Has anyone out there been selling at farmer's markets without going through the Dept. of Environmental Health?  I saw some mention of bread being a non-hazardous food product but can't find any exceptions in the CA Retail Food Code. 


Another question:  by using an online service like Etsy, I would assume you are still required to be selling a legal product, which may mean operating from a licensed commercial kitchen.  But since you are potentially selling out of state, under which jurisdiction do you operate? 


I'd love to be able to sell more bread but it seems the regulatory hurdles are just too immense, even if I want to sell a little bread at the local farmer's market.


Thanks for any advice!


-Peter

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Since you are producing the goods in California, you're governed by their rules, regulations and statutes.  California is probably the most over-regulated state in the nation.  


Ohio, on the other hand, has a very friendly attitude towards home bakers, having enacted a cottage food policy which is being expanded.


Per this Texas link, a few other states have cottage food laws.


Sorry....


 

ladychef41's picture
ladychef41

Hi Peter,


I am doing the same thing; looking into selling at Farmer's Markets. I live in the greater Los Angeles area and boy are there some strict guidelines for selling. You have to be "chosen" to sell at MANY of the Farmer's Markets, by THEIR organization. Whatever happened to "craftsmen" being able to sell their goods to every day people and not having to "pass muster" by a board of the "chosen few"? I feel like I'm trying to buy a co-op in NY City... It's frustrating and depressing.


One absolute essential is that you get a Food Handlers Certificate in order to sell anywhere. You also have to find a commercial kitchen that has passed inspection by the Health Dept.


What area do you live in? Maybe we can put our heads together on this..


 


Wendy

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I think your best bet in CA is to rent space in a community kitchen. Selling your wares at a farmer's market appears to be relatively simple and inexpensive. I looked into the market in Santa Rosa. If you are a veteran I think the cost was just $10. Most markets have the information online.


--Pamela

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

I, as well, live in the Greater LA/OC area, and I can tell you that the Farmer's Markets aren't what they used to be 10-15 years ago... it ain't all Mayberry any longer. : /

Like anything else, they've realized that the sheer numbers of potential sellers is overwhelming, so they can be pretty choosy.. especially for the prepared food providers versus the agriculture providers. You have to get out to the rural areas to escape the insurmountable competition around here (Orange County is just as bad!).

In the end, the few have spoiled it for the many, and the county has had to make it nearly impossible for the small-time entrepreneur. While sad, I have to agree that they are protecting people in the end. Due to the sheer numbers of people who want to make money, there are always a few who will cut too many corners where health issues are concerned. Being a melting pot, you also get a lot of transplanted people who come from places where sanitation is down the list of priorities a ways.

It does make me really angry, though, because I would like to have the availability of trying to sell some unique products. With gas at $3 a gallon again, it's not acceptable to have to drive 2 or 3 hours to get away from 'the crowd'. Meanwhile, everywhere I drive, there's .99 cent taco wagons and roach coaches everywhere... It isn't fair, but... it is what it is now.

There is a 24/7 community kitchen that was advertised on the news a few months back, and I did the research on it. Very reasonable solution, but kind of pricey. You would be cooking under their state and county permits, but you do have to have a food handling cert, which is around $400 if I recall correctly. So, you would have to find space at a market, then drive to the kitchen to prepare your breads. Driving would most likely have to be done several times, especially if you are making any sourdoughs and/or using cold retardation techniques (you do get your own personal fridge space there). Then you have to bake and get it to the market. While I thought this all the be a sincere PITA, I also realized that since you can ramp up your production to a professional level, it might actually save a LOT of time over trying to produce bulk in a home kitchen. As long as you actually sold enough, the increase in your overhead might get payed for. It would be a gamble the first few trips.

- Keith

ladychef41's picture
ladychef41

I completely agree with you Keith... It's frustrating and depressing trying to deal with all of it; and terribly unfair. The Food Handling Cert is much less that $400; fortunately, but that doesn't preclude all the other hoops we have to jump through. Maybe we should start up our own Farmer's Market Keith!!!


 


Wendy

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

You know... that's exactly what it would take... a combined effort between two or more parties. That kind of plays into 'their' hand, no? I mean, a combined effort usually means two heads are better than one, and most likely all the right things will go down in the right order without shortcuts. There's a lot to protect!


- Keith

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

This is the Shared Commercial Kitchen I saw on the news... there may be others, but this site will certainly give you the overview of what types of things you can expect:


http://www.chefskitchens.com/index.php


In addition to the Food Handling cert, each baker needs insurance, but you can gleen all of that from the website. They pretty much lay it all out, and it's pretty friendly surfing.


- Keith

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Here's a fun article from the WSJ on an incident in Pennsylvania.  I'd retitle it "Protect us from our protectors."


BTW, the FDA regulates all interstate sales, so in addition to state law, you'd have to comply with federal law if going the cyberspace sales route.


 

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

I like the cottage option available for some states, and see that California is indeed tight about food production.  I somewhat agree with Keith that sanitation should be controlled and monitored, but I would love to pay to have my home kitchen inspected and certified once every year or two.  But since I have a full-time job and a young child, I don't have time to rent space at a commercial kitchen.  The only way I'm able to bake so much is that I can do it at night at home, amongst my other chores.  Having to leave the house would pretty much squash any chance of this working.


I already got my food handler's certificate, though I think it's linked to the specific bakery at which I was apprenticing.  It didn't cost $400 so maybe that's something else?


Pamela--the only loophole I found for using a home kitchen is if you run a B&B.  It's buried in the CA Retail Food Code.  I may talk to a restaurant planning company to see if they know of any other loopholes.


Finally, in response to Lindy, I see a lot of people on Etsy selling baked goods and I can't imagine a single one is using a commercial kitchen and complying with state AND federal guidelines.  But saying, "They can do it," is like pointing out speeders on the highway.  Yeah, they're all breaking the law, but it doesn't mean you can do it.


 


-Peter

Fit Chick's picture
Fit Chick

I live in the OC and would love any information on a community kitchen in this area.  Driving to LA to use the kitchen up there just won't fit into my schedule; it does look like a great place to bake. 


Robin

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Look at your community resources to see if there is a community center kitchen that you can rent.


--Pamela

IMUnltd's picture
IMUnltd

Check out http://www.culinaryincubator.com/maps.php


Maybe something there.


 

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

After reading through most of the CA Retail Food Code and checking up on business licenses and other required certificates, it looks like there's no way for anyone in California to sell bread without being a full-on commercial bakery.  Forget any type of cottage industry or even a small bakery.  Based on the costs of renting space at a community kitchen, you'd have to be working at least 20-30 hours a week on bread just to break even with the fees, not to mention the fees to get space at a farmer's market.  At that point you're better off leasing a space and trying to start a full-size commercial bakery.


I understand there are food safety concerns about people selling food made in their homes, but California has built such high regulatory walls that nobody, and I mean nobody, can sell on a small scale.  Anyone who does, or sells online, is breaking the law, at least here in the Golden State.


Sorry to be such a downer, but the law's the law, and us home bakers in California are totally out of luck.


-Peter

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Space at the farmer's market for veterans in Santa Rosa is $10. Community kitchen rental runs about $6 per hour depending on where you go.


--Pamela

wintersong's picture
wintersong

Pamela,

I'm looking for a community kitchen in Santa Rosa, and your comment about $6 dollars an hour really caught my interest! Do you have names or links? Thanks!

-Shira

ladychef41's picture
ladychef41

Whoever found a commercial kitchen to use in Santa Rosa for $6 an hour has hit upon a gold mine!!!! NO WAY you would find something that reasonable in LA or Orange County. The "Community Kitchen" in LA runs a minimum of $25 an hour, and there are other fees tacked on to that!!! Some of the local Farmer's Markets charge 10% of daily sales; not sure about the others. That also doesn't take into consideration the time and distance you have to drive to various Farmer's Markets because you really can't make much of a profit selling for only 3-5 hrs a day; which is the average time of most of the FM's around here.


I have NO PROBLEM at all with all the necessary certificates, insurance, etc. But I DO have issues with the "acceptance" policy of most of the FM's around here. I liken it to trying to purchase a "co-op" and having to pass muster with the "board of directors". It's terribly wrong that they allow only "certain" individuals to sell at their FM's. And with very few spaces ever becoming available, it's next to impossible to ever obtain a space... VERY discouraging....

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

The train of thought there is, the bulk of available space is reserved/preferred to go to agriculture sellers (the whole reason it's called a Farmer's Market). The very few spaces left for prepared food items obviously allows market managers the ability to be very picky, if not downright discriminatory. I can't recall, because it's been so long since I've been to one, but do Swap Meets allow for these types of goods?


- Keith

Davefs's picture
Davefs

Hard to believe the human race made it this far without nanny overseers!

xaipete's picture
xaipete

You could also develop a clientele among your friends and neighbors, and their friends. People will pay for homemade, high quality bread.


--Pamela

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

Hi Pamela,


I'd love to find a community kitchen that rents that cheap, but that may be a NorCal thing.  Down here in San Diego, we don't really have those, and the commercial kitchens are from $16-25/hr.  We don't have a commercial rental kitchen here either, though I saw an old ad for one in SD that said it didn't want bakers or caterers, and I'm wondering what the $#@&! they would allow.


I'm selling to friends, neighbors, and co-workers right now and have joked that I'm waiting for the DEH to come knocking on my door with a fine and a cease-and-desist.  Even now I'm breaking the law, but I don't want to stop baking at home.  I guess it's a moral issue.  Does anyone else here sell home-baked goods without a business license, food handler's cert, and all the other regulatory mumbo-jumbo?


 


Peter


 

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Did you check community centers? Churches? Etc.?


I won't worry about the morality of selling to my neighbors and friends. Esp. in California! You can call the money you receive a 'donation'.


Churches often host crab bakes, etc. How do they do it? They must have some kind of certificate of sanitation, or whatever it is called.


--Pamela

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

I hate to add more rain to the thunderstorm, but even selling to friends/neighbors/co-workers can put you in a very precarious liability situation. If any of those people get sick (for ANY reason whatsoever) and think it might have been something you sold them, it is going to get really ugly, really quick. I think family is safest, followed by friends. Neighbors? Well, I've seen neighbors who lived peacefully for decades erupt into wars over very stupid things. Very risky there... Co-workers? Wow, that the biggest risk of all, because now you are also involving your employer, who might get drawn up into civil liability if you did any transactions on their property. This is 2009. It can happen. People are crazy.


- Keith

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

After reading everyone's comments, it sounds like what I need to do is slap a label on every one of my loaves of bread with the following:


This bread is made from flour with uknown provenance and the baker has not personally certified the milling, processing, and packaging of each grain of wheat.  Furthermore, the enamel baking process to line the inside of the baker's oven was not personally certified by the baker to be in compliance with SCAQMD guidelines for low-VOC processes.  Any ingredients handled by the baker were touched by hands that while washed with soap and hot water, did not undergo Stage Five nuclear decontamination procedures, thus leaving the possibility of contaminants of cancer-causing origination at some point during the baker's lifetime.  Anyone consuming this bread does so at their own risk and will not hold the baker, the baker's family, pets, relatives, co-workers, childhood friends, preschool teachers, or subway-riding companions liable for any damages, accidents, mishaps, or upset tummies.  Furthermore, anyone who even looks at this bread will pretend they did not see it and will not pursue legal action.


If this sounds reactionary, you haven't seen some of the warning labels on kids' toys recently, which unfold as a three-foot long rap sheet.  While I admire the intention to protect each American from personal injury, I can't help but wonder how cottage baking laws have passed in some states, while California works as hard as possible to prevent anyone from making, selling, or consuming food.  I plan on continuing to sell my bread to folks, but am going to change the description to 'day-old bread' and will request donations rather than charge a fee.  Hooray capitalism!


-Peter

cookingwithdenay's picture
cookingwithdenay

All home-based bakers should be following the labeling requirement recommended by their state regulatory agency. You can all the agency or the health department or your state department of agriculture.


The federal gov. also have a wonderful website on lableing.


 

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Would be real nice if any of us in CA could even get close enough to the other requirements, much less labels... we'd be happy if that was the problem! lol


- Keith

cadrea56's picture
cadrea56

Did you ever have any luck in finding a comm kitchen to work from?  I too live here in San Diego and have just begun the same quest you are on.  However, I am not wanting to sell bread, in fact I truly only enjoy eating bread.  Any tips you can toss to me would be greatly appreciated.    Drea

ladychef41's picture
ladychef41

And don't forget the best one;


 


Warning; POISON, do not eat/drink/ingest/inhale


 


Have we really become this "Dumbed Down"????


 


 


Wendy

nbicomputers's picture
nbicomputers

i bought a new battery for my laptop and stuck in with the rest on the stuff was and i am not kidding


do not hammer a nail into the battery, do not drill into the battery

cookingwithdenay's picture
cookingwithdenay

There are a number of incubator kitchens poping up all over the place and you may want to check them out. You may also want to consider operating your own incubator. there is a company called NxLevel that sells a CD that will assist you in developing a shared kitchen program.

bassopotamus's picture
bassopotamus

I don't know CA law, but in Iowa, the one food exception is non hazardous baked goods at a farmer's markte. Otherwise, you need a commerical kitchen.There are options out there as far as rentals go, although that is an added expense. WE've looked around a little, and it just isn't cost effective for us.Unfortunately, other things my wife would like to do to expand (sell to restaurants and such) can't be done from home.


 


Farmer's market policies are all over the place. Here, it is 100 bucks a year for the spot, and you get to keep all your income.


 


I think selling over the net would be worse, as you are basically tapping into federal regs if you cross state lines.


 

cookingwithdenay's picture
cookingwithdenay

You will need to work with your state regulatory agency and investigate the rule and regs for selling online (they can tell you about outside state requirements), not as difficult as you might think. You can work with your state Dept. of Ag or your regulator agency. You have to complete a Prior Notice online and other requirements to let the feds know what you are selling. It is a bit involved but worth it to many small business owners. Most just don't want to jump through the hoops; however for those who do,  it really weeds out a lot of online competition. I understand your point thou. Have a great day!

cookingwithdenay's picture
cookingwithdenay

Here is a link with two websites that can be used to located kitchen incubators and shared-use kitchens. There is also a check list for working with these facilities. Good luck in your search.   http://bit.ly/aMeVXx

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

No, I didn't pursue it further.  But that has mroe to do with my schedule and interest.  I'd love to sell bread at our farmer's market but right now I can bake at home, on my own schedule.  If I go to the next level I will be spending more time away from home.  Working full-time and having kids makes you value time at home!


-Peter

cookingwithdenay's picture
cookingwithdenay

I have posted this before and will put the link here again for the CA Home Bakers Law Online Petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/CAHBLP/petition.html


I have spoken to a number of baker in California and a FM manager who suggested that you work with the Farmers Market Manager where you want to sell your products. Often they are familiar with kitchen rentals used by other bakers and may be able to assist. Remember the kitchen facility needs to be licensed and insured and it is possible to use a retail/commercial kitchen.


If you do decide to rent a kitchen here is a link to a checklist of items you will want to cover with the person renting the facility; along with a couple links that will guide you to kitchen incubators and shared use facilities.  http://bit.ly/ijTdFu


Good luck!


 


p.s. I have a call in about the CA legislation and will post when I get a response.

wild mountain bakery's picture
wild mountain bakery

It took me two market season's to get into our local market in Morgantown, WV.  After another rejection I appealed, brought Bob and Lola (my starters) and pled my point.  I pay $150 Association fees.  There are smaller markets around, in our town alone there are 5, and we are not a big city.  I sold at the smaller markets, untill I gained a reputation.  Good luck with the California laws.  I made the plunge and built a small commercial kitchen in my basement.

diverpro94's picture
diverpro94

Yeah... There's no real loop hole to get around food regulations. Although, you can rent commercial kitchens for a couple hours a week to a few days. If you have friends that have their own commercial kitchen, you can always use theirs.

Bixmeister's picture
Bixmeister

Greetings, I have been away from the forum for quite a while.  I had to rebuild my Kamado which was shedding it's tiles in sheets.  My Kamado is a tiled Big Green Egg outdoor cooker.  The Kamado is equivalent to an outdoor brick oven but quite a bit more versatile.  I will be breaking it in again by doing low and slow barbecuing.  After the break-in period I will resume baking bread and pizzas.


Other things like gardening and starting a Cheese Workshop business in San Diego have been filling my time.


Even though off topic, I want to know more about Farmers' Markets regulations in San Diego and the State of California.  Also are their any prospective cheese makers in the San Diego area.  Cheese making is a hobby turned business with me.  I have had advanced training in cheese making recently.  I want to hold a cheese making workshop in San Diego area before Christmas for IRS write off reasons.  I have some large startup costs.  I am creating moulds and other equipment for cheese making.  I have purchased power tools to expedite my equipment making.


All suggestions are welcome


Bix

cookingwithdenay's picture
cookingwithdenay

Just an FYI for Colorado bakers who are interested in taking their products from kitchen to market.


There is now a Colorado Cottage Food Law Petition that will encourage Colorado Legislates to draft a cottage food law in the state of Colorado. The contact person for the petition is Mande Gabelson (coloradocottagelaw@yahoo.com).


http://www.petitiononline.com/cocttglw/petition.html


~ Denay


 

haarkel's picture
haarkel

at my daughter's high school in CA, since they can no longer sell baked goods for fundraisers, groups can "sell" a napkin or paper plate and "give away" the cupcake or cookie. LOL