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Cottage food laws allow small-time producers to bake, can, pickle, dry, candy, or cook low-risk foods with their home appliances for the purpose of selling. So a home bakery business would be considered a “cottage food business” or cottage baking.
So what are cottage foods? The legal definition varies from state to state, but there are a few general guidelines that don’t change. Generally speaking, cottage foods must be shelf-stable and low-risk, and often they cannot require refrigeration. These legal definitions and regulations are meant to allow bakers to sell baked goods from home without putting public health at risk.
As the food industry has evolved, there has been a noticeable consumer shift towards buying, eating, and supporting local. In 2008, U.S. local food sales totaled around $5 billion. In 2019, the local foods market became worth $20 billion, a massive increase in just over a decade. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the growth of home-based businesses as bakers, makers, and chefs search for alternatives to the traditional brick-and-mortar design.
Starting a home bakery business can also be a path to entrepreneurship for many bakers. For most people, the cost of equipment, ingredients, and rented kitchen space is more than a little prohibitive. But a cottage bakery allows you to bake from home, use the resources already available to you, and upgrade your equipment and ingredients as your business grows. This path allows you to save and grow your customer base before opening a brick-and-mortar location--making it less of a gamble and more of a natural step forward.
But before you start selling pies and cakes out of your home, you should be aware that there are rules and regulations surrounding food safety and what you’re allowed to sell as a cottage baker. To avoid fines, legal suits--and even jail time in some states!--make sure that you’re familiar with your state’s cottage food laws.
Every state has its own laws and regulations about what constitutes cottage food and what you are allowed to prepare and sell from your home. But, generally speaking, shelf-stable baked goods without custard, cream, or meal fillings are allowed. But you’ll need to do some research before you get started to ensure you’re not breaking any state or local laws.
But cottage food law doesn’t just involve the kind of baked goods you’re selling. From how much you’re allowed to earn to how you package and label your food, every state requires some form of due diligence from its cottage food industries.
Some states require you to have a permit to sell food from home. There are also laws on the books that require all cottage food to be labeled with a list of ingredients. Some areas require that you take safety courses or gain certain certifications. You may even have to allow the local governing authority into your home for a kitchen inspection. So before you invest any money in your new business, make sure you understand the fine print!
If you’re already trying to figure out how to get around cottage food laws, the best answer is--you can’t. But you can “work smarter, not harder”! There are all sorts of free resources available to cottage bakers, like this printable cottage food label template, that have been designed to help you succeed.
Many states require cottage bakeries to obtain some sort of registration, permit, or license to operate legally. The purpose of a cottage food license is usually to ensure that your kitchen is on record with the local department of health--or department of agriculture, depending on the state. They want you to be on record to ensure that:
The exact requirements to obtain a cottage food license vary by state, but they typically include proof of business licensing, food handling and/or food safety courses or certification, and kitchen inspections.
Under most state rules, cottage industries may sell directly to other individuals, but not to businesses (restaurants, grocery stores, etc.). You may also be limited to selling through farmers’ markets, bake sales, or other charity events. And while you are allowed to have a website, most cottage food laws prohibit the sale of cottage foods online or across state lines.
The cottage food license application process is usually fairly simple. You’ll likely be able to apply through your local department of health or department of agriculture online. The length of time it will take to obtain your license depends completely on your local government.
If you are required to pass a kitchen inspection and take a food safety course, you’ll have to allow for the time it will take to schedule and complete those activities. The more constrictive your area’s laws, the longer it will take to receive your license.
Remember, having no licensing requirements does not mean that the state has no cottage food laws. Although there are no cottage food license Wisconsin requirements, the state has strict laws about what constitutes “cottage foods.” Currently, only baked goods can be sold. No candy, dried fruit, dry mixes, etc. are allowed.
Likewise, there are sometimes special laws and regulations that create loopholes for cottage bakers. For instance, a New York state food license is required unless you qualify for a Home Processor exemption. Then you can sell homemade foods for wholesale or retail value at agricultural farm venues.
So make sure you do your research carefully when you’re starting up your cottage bakery!
Cottage food laws vary by state and are subject to change as federal, state, and local municipal laws evolve. This is meant to be a helpful overview of cottage food laws by state and a starting point for your research. Always consult directly with your local state health department and department of agriculture for a complete list of their requirements and cottage food laws.
Homemade foods cannot be sold in restaurants, novelty shops, grocery stores, or over the internet. Approved foods include candies, jams and jellies, dried herbs, dried herb mixes, and baked goods (cakes, cookies, pastries, doughnuts, and breads).
Alaska Food Code allows the sale of “non-potentially hazardous” foods to be sold without a permit directly to the consumer as long as certain conditions are met. You will be required to keep extensive documentation about the ingredients in your food as well as how it is prepared and packaged.
Arizona’s Cottage Food Program allows individuals to make homemade products that are neither “potentially hazardous nor Time or Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) Foods, and offer them for commercial sale.” You will be required to undergo food handler training, meet labeling requirements, and register your business.
Classifies allowed food as non-PHF foods in five categories: baked goods, candy, jams/jellies, fruit butters, and chocolate-covered fruit. Only direct sales are allowed through your home, at the farmers’ market, online, or at the fair/other events.
California cottage food laws vary by city as well as state. In Los Angeles, for instance, you can be classified as a Class A or Class B cottage food operator. Class A operators can sell food from their home by registering with the County Department of Health and submitting a “self-certification compliance checklist". Class B Operators must obtain a permit from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and may sell to permitted restaurants, grocery stores, and food trucks.
In Colorado, all non-potentially hazardous foods that do not require refrigeration for safety are allowed to be sold to individuals without licensing or inspections. However, you will be required to complete a food safety course and (depending on your county) possibly obtain a business license.
Connecticut only allows the sale of acidified foods, jams, jellies, or preserves and they can only be sold on-farm.
Delaware allows the sale of most baked goods, candy, preserves, spices and herd, nuts, and popcorn items to be sold at farmers’ markets and produce stands. They must have licensure, undergo food handling training, and meet extensive state requirements.
Florida allows the sale of up to $50,000 worth of non-potentially hazardous foods direct to the consumer with no licensing or inspection requirements.
Georgia cottage food laws allow the sale of non-potentially hazardous foods direct to the consumer. Sellers must submit to inspections and register with the state. A license is required.
Hawaii allows the sale of non-potentially hazardous non-refrigerated foods directly from the home kitchen. Product labeling is required for items with more than one ingredient. DOH training is also required.
Idaho has no sales limit on its cottage baked goods and items on the approved list may be sold direct to the consumer at any venue. There are currently no licensing requirements.
Illinois cottage food laws require regular inspections and a Food Service Sanitation Manager Certificate. You may sell directly to the consumer only at farmers’ markets.
Indiana allows baked goods, candy and confections, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, legumes, pickles processed in a traditional method, honey, molasses, sorghum, and maple syrup to be sold directly to the consumer. Basic sanitation measures are required by the state, but there are no inspections unless a complaint is filed.
Iowa cottage foods law allows the sale of baked goods only. There are three levels of classification available - two that require licenses and one that does not. All sales must be direct to the consumer.
Non-potentially hazardous baked goods such as cookies, breads, cakes, cinnamon rolls and fruit pies; fresh fruits and vegetables; and honey may be sold directly to consumers at farmers’ markets.
Foods made by a home based processor. Home-based processor means a person who in his or her home, produces or processes whole fruit and vegetables, mixed-greens, jams, jellies, sweet sorghum syrup, preserves, fruit butter, bread, fruit pies, cakes, or cookies.
For the baking and sale of breads, cakes, cookies, and pies a building must be constructed to exclude vermin; pets are not allowed; refrigeration for all perishable products; and all equipment must be kept clean.
Any foods produced in the home may be sold (direct, through grocery stores and restaurants, etc.), except home-canned foods that require pressure cooking for sealing. No label is required if the product is sold directly to consumers from the home.
Non-potentially hazardous baked goods can be sold at farmers’ markets, bake sales, and public events with no license.
Non-potentially hazardous foods including baked goods, confections, jams, and jellies can be sold directly to consumers or wholesale (with additional requirements). You must register and pass multiple state and local requirements.
Up to $25,000 in annual sales of non-potentially hazardous foods direct to the consumer. Department of Agriculture may enforce adulteration laws.
Sale allowed of non-potentially hazardous foods, pickles, and vegetables or fruits with a pH of 4.6 or lower at community or social events, farmers’ markets, or from the home. You must register with the state.
Sale allowed of non-potentially hazardous foods including baked goods, canned jams or jellies, and dried herbs and herb mixes. No license required.
Cottage bakers must register with the local health authority in the same county as their domestic residence. You may sell directly to consumers and at local farmers’ markets.
Non-potentially hazardous foods may be sold at farmers’ markets only.
Non-potentially hazardous items may be sold directly to consumers from the farm, farmers’ markets, flea markets, swap meets, church bazaars, garage sales, and craft fairs. You must register and pay a nominal fee.
New Hampshire’s requirements for cottage food vary based on how much you make annually--over or under $20,000 per year. A Homestead Food License is required if you make more than the annual limit.
New Jersey does not allow the sale of cottage foods.
New Mexico requires registration, and food safety training every 5 years to sell non-potentially hazardous foods.
A Food Service Establishment permit is required from the local health department or State District Office. Finished products must be clean and sanitary and not adulterated or misbranded. They must be packaged in glass containers and have rigid metal covers for jams and similar items. Read more about NYS Department of Health food service regulations.
Food contact surfaces must be smooth and easily cleanable. No pets are allowed in the home at any time. All light bulbs must have protective shields or be shatter-proof.
Allows baked goods, jams, jellies, and other food and drink products to be sold by a cottage food operator on a farm or ranch, in farmers’ markets, at farm stands, or at any other venue not otherwise prohibited by law.
Subject to sampling for misbranding or adulteration. May be sold directly to the consumer and through food retail establishments in the state.
Cottage laws allow baked goods not containing meat products or fresh fruit through the home only.
You must have a separate refrigeration unit to sell non-potentially hazardous foods. You must have a license to operate.
Pennsylvania has extensive registration requirements. But if you have a home kitchen that you keep separate from personal use, you can produce and sell potentially hazardous foods so long as the space meets full regulatory standards for a food establishment. Read more about PA cottage food laws.
Only available for food produced in a kitchen on the premises of a farm. Registration is required.
If you sell less than $15,000 per year you can apply for an exemption from inspection and label review.
May sell baked and canned goods at roadside stands, farmers’ markets, and church bazaars.
You may sell 100 units per week of Non-potentially hazardous jams, jellies, candy, and baked goods. Registration and licensing required.
You must complete a basic food safety education or training program for food handlers to sell non-potentially hazardous foods.
Registration and valid food handlers permits are required to sell non-potentially hazardous baked goods, jams, jellies, and other non-potentially hazardous foods produced in a home kitchen.
Only baked goods such as bread, cakes, pies, and other foods made either “wholly or in part from flour” are allowed.
There are no licenses required to sell from your home or in farmers’ markets. ‘In addition to baked goods and candies, you may also sell pickles (up to $3,000 per year) and up to 250 gallons of honey from your own hives.
You must have a permit to sell non-potentially hazardous products--up to $25,000 per year.
You must register with the local health department and sell only through farmers’ markets or religious/charitable bake sales.
Wisconsin allows the sale of baked goods direct to the consumer through any venue. Pickles and other processed/canned items may only be sold at farmers’ markets and through community events.
Non-potentially hazardous foods may be sold with no license or permit at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, through your home, and at nonprofit, charitable, or religious functions.
Marketing a cottage food business isn’t always easy. You’re competing not just with other cottage businesses, but with big restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores in your area that provide similar products.
As you’re getting started and building your service offering, it may be helpful to include some of the best-selling cottage foods in your area. While you’ll still be limited by what is considered “cottage food” by state law, adding these popular items to your menu can boost sales and interest in your business! Some of the most popular items on the state-approved cottage foods list include:
Some states may have registries or directories of local cottage bakeries and food providers, but often you have to hunt them down yourself. Try Googling “local bakeries” or browse Yelp reviews for smaller businesses. Instagram can also be an excellent source of information.
But you’ll probably have more luck asking around at local farmers’ markets and maker fairs where cottage bakers are allowed to sell their goods. Once you find a business owner whose wares your love, ask for more recommendations — you’ll be surprised how connected your community food makers are!
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