Turning fresh produce into tasty jams, pickles or preserved fruits and veggies makes starting a canning business a way to make some extra cash. You can also develop a full-fledged business stemming from your canning knowledge as long as you follow state and federal regulations. If you plan to sell to locals only, the regulations tend to be far fewer, making it easier to get your canned products to hungry shoppers.
Many states have cottage laws that allow you to sell canned foods at farmer’s markets, but not to retailers such as grocer stores or restaurant. Check with your state department of agriculture. Some states require a home kitchen inspection and a permit for special zoning to operate the canning business from your home while others have few stipulations for selling your canned produce.
A license to sell canned foods is required to sell canned foods to retailers and restaurants. For instance, in Wisconsin, you must obtain a food processing license from the Wisconsin Department Agriculture if you plan to sell up to $25,000 of canned foods at wholesale prices or if you want to sell them in other states. Some states require that you obtain specialized training if you intend to can acidified foods such as pickles, tomatoes or relishes. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires canners to register their business, and special forms are required if you can acidified foods.
Finding a Kitchen
If you plan to sell your canned produce to retailers, most states require you to use a licensed kitchen. This type of kitchen must meet commercial standards in order to pass health department inspections, so you may need to lease space outside of your home. Check with restaurants in your area that are willing to lease their kitchens on days they're closed.
Finding ways to properly process fruits and vegetables starts with establishing safe manufacturing processes. Include washing, sorting and trimming raw fruit and vegetables. You must also clean and sterilize the canning containers. Heating processes that destroy pathogens and eliminate spoilage are also necessary when it comes to cooking the raw ingredients. Post-heat processing to make sure each jar is sealed properly is also key. Finally, setting up shelving to properly cool the canned goods before distribution needs to be part of your manufacturing process.
Equipment and Supplies
Buy all of your canning containers, such as Mason jars, from businesses that sell wholesale. Look online to find companies that sell various sized jars with seals and lids. Processing equipment, such as pressure canning cookers and a steam system to sanitize your jars, are also required. You also need a way to create and print package labels for each jar.
Labeling laws apply if you sell your canned goods at venues other than farmers markets. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you must list all ingredients used in the canned good, including preservatives. Your full address must appear on the label as the manufacturer of the food.
- University of Wisconsin Extension, Food Safety & Health: Starting a Food Business, Canning
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Food Guidance Documents
- PickYourOwn.org: Cottage Food Laws, Selling Your Homemade and Home-Canned Foods
- PickYourOwn.org: Can I Sell My Home-Canned Salsa, Jams and Other Preserves?
Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.