Food Processors

Woman Stirring Raspberries

Now We're Cooking! How to Get Started with Your Food-Based Business

By Tim Nisly, South Valley Economic Development Center

Do you have a great recipe, and you want to take it to the next level? Do you want to sell your product to grocery stores or restaurants, or cater weddings on the weekends? Starting your own food-based business is a complicated but rewarding process, and knowing the steps to take to get your product to the public can make the process much easier.

Before you start, there is a set of "best practices" that you should go through when creating any business, such as looking at the competition, picking a legal structure, putting together costs and sales projections, and choosing your niche.' It sounds complicated but there are free resources to help you with your business plan, such as Albuquerque SCORE, an association of experienced business people who volunteer their time to help others succeed.

Once you have a business plan together, food-based businesses are required to have public health permits to ensure public safety, as you will be responsible for controlling contamination hazards and pathogens, and identifying allergens.

There are a few steps to get a processor's permit application approved. First, you need to create an operational plan, with a flow chart to show when ingredients are added, times and temperatures for cooking, as well as packaging, distribution, record keeping, and equipment and management details. Then you need to create a label with your contents, ingredients, name and address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor, as well as a bar code. After your label is accepted, you'll have an initial inspection and then you'll be ready to cook! If this sounds like a lot of work, well, it is, but there are a variety of resources to help you along the way.

The South Valley Economic Development Center and Bernalillo County host a monthly orientation to help you succeed, where we cover many of the above topics and more. For more information, call 505-877-0373 or visit us online.

And one final piece of advice: If you're truly interested in starting a food-based business, find someone who has done something similar (who isn't a direct competitor) and ask them how they did it. You'll find that people are more than willing to talk about their successes, and you'll get some great information that will save you a lot of time and money.