Recipe For Success

It takes more than a little love to make a prized family recipe a winning business. But with pluck, planning and plenty of persistence, it can be profitable.

type of product that you have. Not every co-packer will specialize in your type of recipe. Some work only with dry recipes (baked goods and seasonings) while others deal with liquid recipes (syrups and sauces). Also, not every co-packer will provide such services as product development and conversion, packaging and labeling. Still others will offer a combination of all three.

Depending on the co-packer, type of product and volume produced, cost can range between $1,500-$4,000 per product. The more products produced, the lower the per-unit cost, says Tim Ashman, president of Ashman Manufacturing & Distribution Co. in Virginia Beach, Virginia. His company manufactures dry mixes as well as barbecue and hot sauces. Each co-packer has different volume requirements. While Ashman’s 10-year-old co-packing business accepts runs of 75 gallons or more–the amount of product to be produced–he says most co-packers enforce a 250-500 gallon minimum. Depending on the complexity of the recipe, the manufacturing process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Van Woods says preparing his canned vegetables and the entire food packing process took over a year. “Vegetables are a much more complicated packing form. You just can’t pack them, you have to cook vegetables, then work to get it to the right taste in a can.”

Using a co-packer provides a number of benefits. First, it eliminates the start-up cost of building a facility. Building your own plant can cost millions, says Woods who currently uses a co-packer. Last year, Woods expressed interest in purchasing the Rockland County food processing plant in Orangeburg, New York, to house his food operation. The initial asking price was $22 million.

Co-packers can also provide your product’s nutritional information. And worries about producing a sage product are virtually eliminated because these facilities must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. UPC (Universal Product Code) labels used for scanning in supermarkets can be obtained through an independent labeling company. Two publications that can help you locate a co-packer include From Kitchen to Market (Dearborn Publishing Group: $27.95) and Thomas Food Industry Register (Thomas Publishing Co.: $185). Check your local library or bookstore.

For chose who want to begin manufacturing a recipe from home, it’s not impossible if you plan to start small-and you have professional experience. Be sure to abide by Federal Drug Administration regulations concerning food preparation. Some states prohibit the use of home kitchens for mass production.

Vivian Gibson, owner of the MillCreek Co. in St. Louis, invested 10 years of catering experience and $40,000 in start-up capital to develop her hot sauce recipe from home. “The first steps were really in my own kitchen trying to get it into this consistency I wanted,” recalls Gibson. who launched her business in 1994 with Vib’s Caribbean Heat, a hot seasoning sauce made from imported Scotch Bonnet peppers. “I called the food science division at the University of Missouri and started talking to the professors,” she says. “They have a service where you can send your products there and they can give

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