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How to Sell Food Products Online

If you’re a natural in the kitchen, people rave about your cooking, you are the person who ends up baking cakes for special occasions like birthdays or weddings, or you even have a background in the culinary arts, then selling homemade food online in a home-based food business is likely for you. There’s a huge market for home-based foods right now. In fact, the profits possible if you have a cottage food business have consistently risen since 2014. By 2025, there’s expected to be more than a $20 billion dollar market in the U.S. alone competing with food industries in many other countries.

Many states are trying to update their cottage food industry laws so that people who want to know how to sell food products online don’t get stuck in the mire of licensing and inspections. For those who want to know how to start an online food business from home, there are often a few hurdles to jump, depending on the state you live in. In this article, we’ll cover what you need to do to get started selling food in your own cottage food business from home.

How to Sell Food From Home

Before you get started as a food entrepreneur, you need to know the rules for selling food from home in your state. Some states have zero requirements, except the amount of money that you can make, capping off your profits at $50,000 annually, for example, in Texas. If you want to know how to sell food from home in this state, there’s an entire website going over what is allowable. In this state, you can produce any food from a home kitchen except meat, or foods that require time or temperature control for food safety.

Other states will make you get a license, pay around $250 annually, go to food-borne illness classes and get an online certificate, and even inspect your kitchen before you can begin your home-based food business. No matter what state you want to begin in, the hurdles are surmountable, and with so much profit to be made, it would be a shame to let constantly-changing laws stop you from beginning your dream home-based business.

Starting a Food Business Checklist

Starting a food business can get confusing as you attempt to organize your business plan, figure out how to sell online, and actually make and deliver the food. If you’re selling baked goods online, for example, you’ll need to cross off a few different items on your to-do list compared to if you’re repackaging bulk candy for resale. Here’s a checklist to get started:

  1. Decide what food items you want to sell, based on state requirements. The Institute for Justice lists food laws for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including recently updated food freedom laws. 38 states currently allow home-based cooks to sell their products online.
  2. Gather your cost and profit estimates before you attempt to learn how to sell homemade food online. Your profit depends on the cost of your goods, labor, packaging, shipping if you’re going to ship, advertising, and labeling less the total you will charge per unit for your goods. You can often lower costs by buying in bulk from CostCo or Sam's club, utilizing local farms for eggs, milk, cheese, and other items, and striking a deal with distributors.
  3. Test a batch with friends and family. One thing every cook will tell you when they first learn how to sell food from home online is that you need to have a quality product. Don’t miss a chance to make a big first impression. Test out your food products with those close to you and get their honest feedback before forging ahead.
  4. Decide how to market food products online. You’ll likely need to set up a website and an online store before you start posting your homemade cakes, pies, or other dishes to Instagram and Facebook. Castiron.me is a great place to start. It’s a web app that allows you to start with nothing but a product, build a website in under an hour and start selling within your own market in no time.

Best Food Products to Sell Online

There are an infinite number of food products you can sell online, from charcuterie boards to wedding cakes to seasonal candies, superfoods, pre-prepped granola for runners or active people, and more. The best food products to sell online will depend on your target market and your special skills as a home baker or chef.

Food Business Ideas 2021

Here are a few trending food business ideas to get your creativity flowing:

  1. Cookies, cakes, pastries, muffins, croissants, bagels, bread, pies, tortillas, flatbreads, pizza crusts, gluten free pastries, sugar-free desserts, vegan desserts
  2. Hard candies
  3. Jams and jellies
  4. Flavored oils or vinegars
  5. Hot sauce or salsa
  6. Trail mix
  7. Dried fruits or vegetables
  8. Pickled items
  9. Chocolate
  10. Coffee
  11. Tea
  12. Cake mixes (unbaked)
  13. Soup or bean mixes
  14. Dry pasta mixes
  15. Meat rubs and firing wood or wooden chunks
  16. BBQ sauce

When coming up with your own online food business ideas, consider how far you will ship, and the efforts it will take to make a recipe. Your food business from home ideas will likely start with a wide number of possibilities, but narrow them down until you find one to make that’s both fun and profitable.

Unique food products to sell will do better than something that has already saturated a market. Foo entrepreneurs who know how to make money selling food from home are those who try out a small batch in their market, see if it sells, and then grow their business accordingly. Don’t invest too much too quickly without testing your market first.

License to Sell Food Online

Cottage food laws and licensing requirements can be one of the biggest steps to overcome when you first start to sell food online. Various U.S. states require a license to sell food online. Many people ask, “Do you need a permit to sell food from home?”, too. Selling food online in Texas is very different from selling food online from New York City.

Refer to the Institute for Justice food laws for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including recently updated food freedom laws. These laws allow wide freedoms and exemptions from FDA nutrition labeling, food safety licensing, permitting, certification, packaging, and labeling requirements in general.

FAQs

Here are some commonly asked questions:

Q: Do I need a license to sell baked goods online?

A: These states require a license before you can sell baked goods online: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Q: How do I get a permit to sell food from home?

A: You’re wondering, do you need a permit to sell food from home? If your state requires a license to sell food, there will be instructions at your local or state-level health department websites. In Alaska, for example, you can visit the Alaska Food Health & Sanitation Department of Health. You can find each state’s health department website by doing a quick Google search for health department + state + cottage food laws.

Q: I’ve heard California is changing their cottage food laws. Is selling food from home in California in 2021 still possible?

A: The California Homemade Food Act, also known as AB 1616, was signed into law by Governor Brown on September 21, 2012. It was meant to create more sustainable food sources. It became law January 1, 2013. This law allows you to sell food from home after meeting California’s licensing requirements. A summary of the law can be found here. Once you’ve met these requirements, you’ll know exactly how to sell food online in California.

Q: I’ve been told it’s easy to start a food business in some states. If I want to know how to start a food business from home in Texas or how to start a food business from home in Florida, where should I start?

A: Your best bet is to learn the cottage food laws for the state you want to begin in. Florida and Texas happen to be very food entrepreneur friendly. Florida’s laws can be found here. If you need to know how to sell food from home in Texas, you begin with their cottage food laws available, here.

Summary: How to Sell Food Online

Online food prepared by home-chefs and food artisans like you is in high demand. There are projections for this industry to explode in coming years and the industry has consistently grown, even through Covid. To get started in your own state, check your local health department for food cottage laws and updates from the Food Freedom Act. Do your market research before betting the farm on a single product, and then get started selling – even if it's from the farm!

Learn how to start selling food from your home, get ideas for homemade food products to sell, and learn how to set up an online store for your business.

Heather Brookshire

The Cake Whisperer

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My business would not be the same without my Castiron website! It is an easy setup with lots of customization and tons of support! I am so glad I set up my shop last year before the holidays — it really helped increase my sales!

Amanda McMonigle

The Whimsical Cookie

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Castiron provides me a professional site to my customers increasing my credibility and value while giving me the tools to effectively market and manage my business in an easy, user-friendly manner.

Kim Sims

Wesley's Treats Hallie's Sweets

5/5

Castiron has made my cottage bakery shine, and my business easy to manage. As a platform they care about my business as much as I do.

Katie Maschoff

Mill City Cooking Company

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Before Castiron, I was taking orders really manually, through emails or texts or Facebook. Now I can send customers straight to my website, and I don’t have to worry about missing any details.

Daniella Smith

Oso Good Clean Eats

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I couldn't run my business without the Castiron platform. It made it so easy to get my shop up and running — it truly removed a massive barrier to me getting started!

Ali Serpe

Kultured Kombucha

5/5

I realized that the barrier of having to DM or text me to order was holding a lot of potential customers back.

Now that I have a professional website and a simple ecommerce checkout, I'm seeing a huge increase in new customers and they appreciate how easy Castiron makes ordering.

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