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.

you ideas.” After getting the product to a manufacturable form, Gibson sent samples to an FDA-approved lab for testing. After approval, she purchased a bottling machine for $7,000 and began taking orders. “I can fill a bottle every six seconds with my machine, and that’s slow by industry standards, but it works fine for me,” says Gibson. Her product, which earned $30,000 in sales last year, is sold in Schnucks, a Midwest supermarket chain, and other stores throughout Missouri and Illinois.

To locate a laboratory that will test the safety of your product, contact the FDA at 800-332-4010. Testing can take a couple of weeks and costs about $300 per sample. Generally, two to three product samples must be submitted.

After spending thousands of dollars to develop your recipe, the last dining you want is for someone to steal it. You also want to protect yourself against being held liable if someone gets sick from your product. There are three types of product protection that every would-be food manufacturer should have: a trademark of the product name, a confidentiality agreement among parties involved in developing your recipe and product liability insurance.

Trademarks will not protect your idea for a product; however, they will protect the name you’ve chosen. “When I came out 14 years ago, people asked, `What’s to keep General Mills or anyone from copying your product?’ ” says Hoskins. They can copy [a syrup], but they can’t call it Michele’s Honey Creme Syrup because my protection is my label.”

Filing for a trademark requires written application, a drawing of the mark (how the tide will appear on the product), and a filing fee of $245. It takes approximately 13 months for approval. To get more information about the trademark process or to conduct a search of your product name, contact the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office at 800-PTO- 9199, or Or call the Trademark Assistance Center at 703- 308-9000.

To protect your product at the manufacturing stage, draw-up a confidentiality agreement among all who are privy to your recipe’s contents. Like the rights to a song, this document, generally two to three pages long, sets forth ownership of the product and outlines in detail how it is to be used and by whom. “At any point where you have an outside entity having a confidentiality agreement in place with that individual,” says Gail Saracco, an associate attorney with Mayer, Brown & Platt in Chicago. You can have multiple agreements in place.

Creating a confidentiality agreement should be done with an attorney. Saracco says be sure to include a product survival provision. “You’ll want to provide that the terms of the confidentiality agreement will survive the termination of the agreement so once they’ve converted your recipe, manufactured your product and are no longer working for you, they don’t, two years later, go out and give everyone else the recipe,” he says.

Once you’ve protected your product name and the recipe’s contents, you’ll need to protect yourself. Product liability insurance

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