Cottage Foods Promote Continued Interest In Local Markets

A study conducted by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic asserts that the U.S. has seen an increase in small-scale food production. Farmers markets, for example, feature locally grown and produced ingredients. This trend allows online culinary school graduates and home cooks alike to bypass grocery stores and go straight to the source for their food. Cottage foods are items created on a small scale and distributed in limited environments, and they support this small-scale market.

Scaled-down regulations
Until recently, regulations on food production were specific to large-scale operations and required businesses to employ healthy practices – such as having stainless steel countertops. These regulations help maintain public safety, but they are difficult to apply to the cottage food industry. For example, many states require that the sale of cottage foods only occurs at a farmers market. Where only companies could legally produce and sell food, now individuals in niche markets can create and distribute their goods.

Defining ‘cottage foods’
The only foods small producers can create and sell from their homes are non‐potentially hazardous foods. These items don’t pose the same health risks as other foods, thus requiring less regulation. These items include baked goods, jams and fruit butters. Most states in the U.S. allow for the distribution of cottage foods. However, there are several levels of home production regulation out there. Some states have detailed cottage regulations and restrictions, while some states are still deciding whether or not they’ll allow for home production.

Inviting participants
States that allow for at least some amount of cottage food home production are inviting participants into the food industry. Hobbyists that would not have sold their food before have found they can make money off their creations. For example, producers in states without regulations would have to increase the size of their operation in order to sell, and many are not willing to go through the hassle. However, being able to create a smaller amount of jams and sell them locally could create a lucrative side business that acts as supplemental income. It’s a low-risk way to begin an enterprise.

Economic benefits
The study suggests that the increasing popularity of cottage foods has positive repercussions for local economies. The money made off of these products stays within a community to be recirculated. Small businesses can also get their start in the cottage food market. Producers don’t have to jump through the same hoops to get their products on the market that they would without home production regulation.

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