Meal Prep eCommerce and Meal Kits are all the rage due to the drastic lifestyle changes many of us have taken in the last eighteen months due to Covid. Although many areas of the world are opening back up and many people are eager to socialize and visit restaurants, the desire to cook and eat at home is still strong, and market trends suggest that an eCommerce food prep business is a great side-hustle or even a full-time career. In just a few years, the home food prep industry has grown from a $5 billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone to a $20 billion industry, and it's still growing.
From a consumer's perspective, there are many reasons to use a meal prep or meal kit:
A meal prep business can take a few forms:
There are many useful meal prep apps that can help you get started with selecting recipes, portioning, and budgeting so that your eCommerce food business can stay profitable. Many of these are consumer-facing, and not meant specifically for business owners, but they can be useful just the same.
Each meal prep app is meant for different purposes. Some target those who want to lose weight, and others are for vegetarians wanting to make sure they meet their nutrition requirements without consuming animal products. Still others are targeted at busy people who don't want to think about what to cook, count calories, and still make sure they have all the ingredients they need to make fast, healthy meals.
Some apps require you to enter recipes manually, while others allow you to upload them. Meal prep apps also create a grocery shopping list for you so that you know exactly what you need to purchase for a week’s worth or months’ worth of meals at a time. This can be critical for planning out your meal prep business recipes.
The apps usually charge a monthly or annual fee and are downloadable for both Android and iOS users.
Different states have different licensing requirements for home food prep businesses. In Texas, for example, there’s no license or permit required because eCommerce food businesses are covered by cottage industry laws. NJ meal prep has a different set of rules.
You’ll need a meal prep business license in the state of New Jersey if you are a person in charge or the manager of a food establishment. You’ll need a food manager certification that you can get after passing the food safety certification exam accredited by the American National Standards Institute and the Conference for Food Protection (ANSI-CFP).
Free meal prep software is available to fill in the blanks that apps don’t. It’s free to sign up for Castiron, a software application that caters to kitchen-based, eCommerce food businesses that sell to family, friends, and followers on social media. After you set up your account and create your social media profile, you can start selling through the Castiron shop. It allows you to streamline selling order management and communication with your customers.
Meal prep business software can help you run a tight ship, make sure you’re reaching a wide customer base, and they often include a meal planner app, for free. The best meal prep software also handles delivery schedules, recipe planning, grocery shopping, and more. Other meal prep software options include:
Along with great apps and software to start your eCommerce food business, you’ll need a solid website that presents your goods as a food artisan. There are many choices for web hosting and site creation, from WordPress sites to all-inclusive sites that help you with payment processing, marketing on social media, and also offer a meal prep builder.
Meallogix, for example, is an all-inclusive meal prep business website that includes an eCommerce shopping cart, and a back-end kitchen OS dashboard so that you can keep track of your meal prep business menu, profitability, and cut costs when needed.
Some states have specific requirements that all-inclusive software can help with. For example, if you’re wondering how to start a meal prep business in California, cottage food operations have to be inspected and registered within the county they’re located in, and must follow health, training, and sanitation standards.
Once you’ve got your menu planning, website, permits, and everything else set up, it’s time to figure out what meal prep supplies you’ll need to start cooking! Your meal prep business plan and prepared menus should keep you on target. If you need a meal prep business plan template, that includes average costs of supplies and other start-up costs, there are many available online. You can also use a meal prep business plan template and just incorporate the costs you’ve already discovered in your research.
When you’re working out your business plan for your food prep business, be sure to include the costs of food packaging. Will you require branded packaging, or will you just use stickers or non-branded packaging? Do you need customized boxes, packaging tape, or other branded items? Do you need insulated shipping kits for shipping refrigerated or frozen items? Is dry ice necessary or bubble padding? All of these choices should be made prior to starting your eCommerce food business.
Different states have different requirements, and few require a meal prep certification, but you can often take courses online for food safety and handling procedures if your state requires one.
These courses typically teach you how to:
Finally, you want a profitable eCommerce food prep business, and you’re in luck because food delivery of prepared foods is more desired by the market than ever. You’re about to be your own business, with flexible hours, and the ability to vacation when you want, but be assured, when you first start out it will require sweat equity and about 6 months to a year to become profitable.
Food prep businesses are expected to be an over $20 billion dollar economy! Stick to it and use the tools we’ve described here, and you’ll indeed experience some healthy profits.
Every state, with the exception of New Jersey, allows home-based food businesses to sell non-hazardous foods that are at low risk of carrying any food-borne illness. These include:
A 65-year old woman and former pastry chef sells homemade pies for $35 each and has a growing home-based food business. Another cottage chef sells jalapeno and peach jelly. The possibilities are endless.
Maine, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming also have enacted “food freedom” laws that exempt home food producers from safety rules that restaurants, grocery stores, and food manufacturers are normally required to follow.
As long as you follow state food prep requirements, and get the appropriate certifications, your creativity and cooking skills can be used to create a solid and thriving business.
Starting a meal prep business from home is a great way to keep your overhead low, too. As long as you plan well, learn how to promote your meal prep business online, and keep your recipe costs while delighting your customers with amazing, easy to prepare, or already prepared food, your meal prep business profits will soar.
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!
The Whimsical Cookie
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.
Wesley's Treats Hallie's Sweets
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.
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.
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!
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.
Easy to start, created specifically for local, handmade food: Castiron’s website builder was created to help you grow. Create a website in minutes with our templates, sell where and how your customers want to buy, and look professional without being technical. Keep customers coming back with email marketing tools, customer records, and more.
Food entrepreneurs, this is your moment. Your community is more and more conscious about what they buy and where it is from. They want food made with love. With ingredients they can pronounce. And they want to support their community while doing it.
Castiron is the best fit for your food business because we're not a one-size-fits-all tool. Selling local food is different from pre-packaged warehouse products. Whether you sell cooking classes, need local pick up, utilize pre-sales to plan inventory, or need a fully custom order form — we got you.
No code required. Add pages, sell your products, build order forms, and show off your beautiful work. We'll handle the tech so you can focus on growing your food business.
Never track down a payment or oversell products again. Real-time inventory tracking and secure payment processing make life easier for you and your customers, and our order form builder makes managing custom requests a breeze.
With our marketing tools, your email marketing can go on autopilot. We make it easy to promote your latest products, announce custom order availability, and stay connected with customers.