How to start a small food business from home

So you’ve got a great idea for a new product. What next? If your goal is to pursue a new food business venture, the new year can be an excellent time to bring your ideas to fruition. If your new year’s resolution is to start a food business from home (or a drink business), there’s lots you can do to get going from home. If you’re thinking about how to start a small food business – and grow it – we’ve broken down some of the first steps below.

The product brief

The first step is to set yourself some realistic expectations and goals. It’s essential to refine your product brief, whether you’re creating it yourself or using a contract development company like Froghop. It’s great to have a great idea but equally important is getting the execution and delivery right.

A perfect place to start is market research – look for any market gaps and what the competition is doing. This is a chance to figure out what attributes of their products meet consumer requirements and what needs aren’t being met. Having a good grasp of your target consumers and their needs, based on your market analysis, is one of your most important jobs as a food business owner.

Getting your product right is essential, but you must also think about a few other things early on. Such as, what’s your end goal? What’s the USP, target price point and likely costs? If you don’t consider the bigger picture, you risk going down dead ends. If you only focus on the product, you might create something that isn’t viable in terms of price, demand or scaling up.

Registering your food business

Now to the regulatory bit. When you start a new food business, you must register it with your local council. Whether you’re trading from a restaurant, a pop-up van, from home, or online, it is a legal requirement to register a food business at least 28 days before opening or taking ownership of an existing business. Registering your business is free, and it can’t be refused. There’s lots of good guidance on our Resources page to help you get started.

By registering, the expectation is you will receive an inspection, whether it’s your home kitchen or commercial unit (you don’t have to wait for a review before you begin trading). At this inspection, the risk level of your business will be assessed, which will determine the frequency of visits. You will also receive a food hygiene rating.

Getting your kitchen ready

So how do you get your kitchen ready for a food inspection? If you’re about to start a small food business from home, you are subject to environmental health inspections, just like all other food businesses. This is to check that you’re carrying out food operations safely and legally. For example, equipment is in good condition, spaces are tidy, and waste is stored correctly.

But it’s not just about the premises. They will look at anything that’s part of the production process, e.g., how hygienically the food is handled, are frozen foods defrosted safely, are vegetables washed thoroughly?
Selling food from home comes with risks, but ensuring you’re prepared and do your due diligence is vital to ensure your kitchen is deemed safe for commercial use. When you scale up from working from home, and you want to go for the first level of accreditation, there will be other criteria you have to meet – the important thing is to make sure you’re following best practices.

Preparing to make the product

Lastly, preparing your product. One of the critical things is to put together a batch sheet every time you make a product, particularly with large batches. This should include a checklist for the essential points of control that you can check each time. For example, is the oven at the right temperature, have you timed how long your product baked for? These are some of the critical things that are important to the safety of your product.

Make sure you run through the checklist, looking at everything from ingredients to production area, ensuring it’s clean and hygienic, and potential allergy risks. You also need to consider aspects such as storage and logistics, particularly if you’re cooking from home, as you’ll need to consider any space constraints.

Starting your own business from home can be daunting, but it needn’t be. There are lots of positives and help about how to start a small food business from home. Our webinar goes into depth about the various requirements, legal and more, that you’ll need to meet for a successful start – watch it here.