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Legal hurdles to retailing a menu signature

pizza sauce

Question:

We have been enjoying a local mom and pop pizza joint for years. My wife always loved their tomato sauce. We proposed the owners the idea of tying to sell their tasty sauce. They came back to us saying, "Take care of the details," to put it online and we will split the profits. We thought it was a great deal but don't know how to start. Since they've had a restaurant license for years we did not think it was necessary to contact the state for requirements, etc. Do you have an advice for us as to how to pursue this opportunity?

– David, Florida

Answer:

While laws vary by state, there are typically different regulations for making food in a restaurant for sale on-site, regulated primarily by your local heath department and making packaged shelf-stable food for distribution and sale, regulated primarily by your state department of agriculture.

A single kitchen may be approved for both purposes, but with a jarred product like a tomato sauce you likely need to file a process schedule and HACCP plan with the state and have your process inspected. The regulations may also be slightly different if you are producing for sale on-premises versus distributing nationally via mail order.

For example, in your state of Florida, the requirements for processing food include:

  • “an individual on staff who has completed the food protection manager certification;
  • a facility that meets minimum construction and sanitation standards;
  • a food permit from the FDACS Division of Food Safety; and
  • if the establishment conducts a high-risk specialized process, or stores potentially hazardous food without temperature control, a letter of process approval from a food-processing authority is required before permitting”

My advice is to not just start producing but to bring in the necessary expertise. This would typically be your local extension office, a food incubator, or someone at the state department of agriculture. An alternative is to take the successful formula and bring it to a co-packer to produce for you. It is definitely doable and sounds promising but there are some hurdles to jump through to do it right.

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