Selling Homemade Food

Share your Family’s Favorite Dishes and Make Some Money

Some of you were wondering if it was possible to make stuff in your home and sell it at Farmers Markets, Swap Meets,  and Independent stores to make some money.   You have all heard stories about entrepreneurs who started making jam, cookies, BBQ sauce and the like out of their home and then became successful selling it to stores.

If you sell at a farmers market, the market manager will check to see that the prepared food comes from a kitchen approved by the health department.

As It turns out, in California, you cannot make food at home–regardless of how clean your kitchen is–and sell it at restaurants, or as prepared food at farmers markets.  According to the Orange County Health Department “(t)he California Retail Food Code (CRFC) Section 114021(b) states that food prepared in a private home may not be used or offered for sale in a food facility. In addition, CRFC Section 114285(b) states that a private home, a room used as living or sleeping quarters, or an area directly opening into a room used as living or sleeping quarters shall not be used for conducting food facility operations. ”  And if you sell food that is prepared by someone else, you cannot store the food in your home.  “(y)ou cannot legally manufacture or store food from a private residence.  All food is to be manufactured from a permitted facility.”


So all of those homemade things that you have been buying are either illegal or not acutely made at home.  But as far as we can tell, the  OC Health Department does not regulate use of the word “homemade.”  This law seems to go against the intent of promoting safe food as the kitchens in most homes seem cleaner than those of the taco trucks and carts.  And in some parts of the county, you see people selling stuff out of shopping carts or out of the trunk of their car.

The law has recently changed (that’s why the above is crossed-out) and it will soon be possible to make many items at home and sell them out of your home.  With an inspection and permit you will be able to sell at Farmers Markets and even in retail stores.  It’s up to the Farmers Market Manager and store manager to decide if you you can sell your homemade food.  For more information on these new regulations click here.

But we just want to let you know how we think you can do things legal, note that we are not attorneys, in our opinion.  If we have made any mistakes or omitted anything please let us know so we can share that information.


How do you Make Homemade Food if you Cannot Make it at Home?

As we understand it there are limitations on the amount home made food you can sell out of your home and you are limited to one fulltime employee (not including yourself and family members).

You have several options.  (1), you can ignore the law.  This is a bad option unless your kid is selling cookies or lemonade.  The powers that be probably won’t call in SWAT to raid Sally’s Lemon-aid stand.  And based on the number of people selling food out of the trunks of their cars and shopping carts in some parts of the county, it is an option people are taking.  But we will not accept your collect call from jail; after all the advice you get on the internet is generally worth less than you paid for it.

(2)  Have a Food Contractor prepare food for you.  These businesses are also called co-packers.  You see their products frequently.  For instance, when you go to a restaurant that offers its salad dressing or BBQ sauce in a bottle, that product is made offsite by a co-packer.  We went ahead and looked up some Food Contractors near the OC.  You will have to contact a few of them to get good pricing

  • Aseptic USA  They do bottled drinks.  Juice, water, soft-drinks, and energy drinks.  They make a lot of the private label stuff you see at supermarkets, quickie marts, and speciality outlets.  They can do it all for you from helping to design the bottle to figuring out what should go inside.
  • Mad Wills they can help develop the product, and their minimum order is a bit over 110 cases-depending on the package size.  They produced bottled gourmet goods with a label you design.  You can even send them samples and a family recipe and they will formulate it for production.  They offer free consults.
  • Scott Brothers in Chino  They make a variety of dairy products–milk, ice cream, frozen yogurt, juice drinks … that can be your products.
  • Monterey Bay Spice Company  They can blend custom teas, or use existing tea blends.  You can put your brand on the package.  They also do spices in bottles with your label.  They say they can do small orders for restaurants …
  • Big Train of Lake Forest and They have been making dry powder drink mixes for over 20 years.  This would be great if you have the newest wait gain or wait loss drink.  You can have you brand on the containers.
  • Salsa-Source/Coyote Kitchen, Inc.  in Phoenix  They will put your label on a variety of salsa and south-west products.  They have their own brand, and over 600 recipes ready to go.  They did not specify minimum orders.

This is not a complete list.  Let us know who’s missing and we will add them to the list of private-label co-packing suppliers.

(3) Rent a Commercial Kitchen and prepare your Homemade Food yourself.

There are a lot of under-utilized commercial kitchens.  There is no need to rent a facility full time.  Many times, they are owned by a restaurant or food manufacturer, but they don’t need to use the kitchen every day; and some restaurants are only open at night.  For the most part their kitchens go unused for at least 16 hours of the day.  They also have equipment all set up.  If you are just getting started, such a facility would const tens of thousands of dollars to rent, equip, and certify yourself.  The key point, is that it must be certified by the OC Health Department to make prepared food.  Your Farmers Market Manager, Swap Meet Manager, or local store will make sure the food is being prepared in a certified kitchen.  Because of liability issues, facilities will require that you get an insurance policy and name the facility as an “additional insured.”

Commercial Kitchens for Rent in or near Orange County.

Again, there are restrictions in AB1616 which may make turning your apartment kitchen into a factory impractical in addition to the fact that your room mates might want to kick you out.  So you may want to consider renting time in a commercial kitchen.  They have equipment, health department approval, storage, and you are not restricted to one full time employee or a gross sales amount.  (click her to see the restrictions on home made food.) These are a couple f commercial kitchens we found that are geared to meet the needs of startups.  If you know of any others, please let us know.

  • The Hood.  This Costa Mesa facility seems to have a lot going for it.  It was started by local chiefs and geared toward startup businesses and they have every thing you need to get going including approval by the OC health department and low hourly rental rates.  They will even let you rent storage space.  You can rent as much time as you want and rates start at $26/hour.  The longer you rent, the lower your rate. .
  • Another nearby commercial kitchen is Foot Hills Kitchens in nearby Upland.  This is another good option, but they require you get your own insurance policy and the facility is certified by the County of San Bernardino Department of Public Health (not that there is anything wrong with San Bernardino, but it might not meet the “local” requirement for some Farmers Market Managers.)
We found one website that has a list of commercial kitchens that are for rent.


You can also search the internet for “commercial kitchen for rent” as many facilities may not have found  You might also try to make a deal with a restaurant that’s only open at night.

  • To rent, many facilities will require that you have insurance.  They will tell you what you need and give you some leads on where you can get it.
  • You and your family/employees  will also need to go through food service approved, training  and obtain a Food Workers Card  The OCHealth Department has a nice write up on the requirements here
  • Your rental kitchen will also have to be approved by a OC Health Department, and they will inspect to make sure you are keeping things ship shape  See wholesale food section of their website for more information .
  • You will need a city business license from the city you are making the food in.  Since the kitchen already exists, this should not be a big deal.  See our Getting Started in Business Page for links.
We’re still working on this article.  Please contribute your ideas.  Contact us with your Business Ideas.  
© 2012



  1. Thank you for the detailed and well organized information.
    I was wondering about nutrition panels. Is it legal to use a program offered on the internet? Does my recipe have to be certified by someone?

  2. I have a sauce that I can create in a commercial kitchen, but how do I bottle it myself?

    • i have a sauce need help how do i bottle and market. Thanks!


  1. Home Made Cookies and Baked Goods as a Business - OC Small Business - [...] to have your “homemade” baked goods made for you with your label.  For more info see this article on…

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