Why Food Business? Do you know that food is the only thing that brings people together on the dinner table almost every single day. For many food provides emotional support including the nourishment to the body. Providing food to the society is a noble cause and expanding availability of food through your business is simply bridging the society together for a common cause. Your food business is a place to share your favorite recipes, wonderful ideas, and a smart action on food-system innovation and entrepreneurship. Starting a successful food business is commercialization of your recipe – a journey to your food vision.
How can we help you: University of Georgia, Food Science and Technology Extension provides variety of services (both technical and educational) that are available to those hungry minds who decide to launch their dream food into a food business. A team of experts from the UGA Food Science and other programs (FoodPIC, Ag. Economics, SBDC and many more) provides on a regular basis a comprehensive assistance tailored to your specific food business needs. Assistance includes:
- Product & Process Development
- Label & Nutritional Facts Development
- Information on Facility Licensing and Regulatory Compliance
- Product Classification and Process Approvals
- Resources for Co-packing facilities
- Packaging design and Sensory Testing
- Ingredient Technology and Functionality
- Food Safety and Sanitation
Most services are provided on request it is not required for you to travel or visit to our location to receive technical and educational assistance. UGA Food Science Extension has been provides several technical and educational programs specifically designed to address food entrepreneur’s key issues on starting a new food business. Our services will maintain confidentiality on all steps of support to all.
Before You Start: Starting a new food business is not an easy task. To become a successful food entrepreneur is to transform yourself into an entrepreneur. Allow yourself to analyze IF you really want to become an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur creates an opportunity with an ability to get things done. Entrepreneurs are NOT always innovators. They see an opportunity and start to build a roadmap to the marketplace. Successful food entrepreneurs are goal oriented, blending their big-picture strategy with a laser focus on execution and results. You will have to develop some attributes of a self-starter and team player. Decision making is a process and slowly develop right attitude of independent decision making power (sometime quick, under pressure and stressful times).
Licensing Your Food Manufacturing Facility: Manufacturing (or processing) facilities and food warehouses are regulated by the Manufactured Food Section within the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Manufactured Food Division. The regulations for the State of Georgia have been adopted from the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act as well as several portions of the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21. The Georgia Food Act requires anyone who intends to operate a food sales establishment in the State of Georgia to obtain a license from the GDA.
When you decide to start a food business in Georgia, there are several steps you will need to take before you’re ready to begin operation. The information on this webpage serves as an outline of the recommended steps to take before becoming licensed. Please review the sidebar of “Helpful Links” on this webpage to help you get started. The “Additional Resources” may also be useful to review.
Prior to Licensing:
Review the Basic Regulatory Requirements and Manufactured Food Regulations to understand the requirements of operating a food sales establishment in Georgia. Also review this Q&A for processing regulations for additional guidance.
Contact your city/county Planning and Zoning and/or Business Development offices and work with them to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy for your business. If you are using a private water source for your business operations, a water sample must be collected and tested annually by the GDA for coliforms and nitrates. For private sewage/septic you will need to contact the local health department to ensure the septic system can handle the output from your operations.
Consider submitting a Business Plan early on to ensure your operation meets the basic regulatory requirements. Business plan reviews are required in order to determine whether the firm requires licensing from the GDA, if the firm’s operations are within the scope of the GDA’s regulations, and to ensure the facilities provided are adequate for the food that is being produced and/or sold on the premises. You will need to have your business plan reviewed prior to being licensed.
It is the firm’s responsibility to ensure the label(s) on all food product(s) are accurate and meet the regulatory requirements. Review the GDA’s Food Labeling brochure for advice on creating food labels, and refer to FDA’s Food Labeling Guide for additional guidance. A final, finished product label is required prior to a firm becoming licensed and operational.
Once you’re ready to be licensed, contact the GDA to schedule an inspection (remember, your business plan will already need to have been reviewed prior to this). At the time of the inspection, all additional paperwork must be completed and provided to the inspector. The packet of completed paperwork must contain copies of your:
- License Application
- Universal Business Plan Form
- Final product label(s)
- Verification of Lawful Presence (secure and verifiable [S&V] documentation requires a notarized affidavit and at least one acceptable form of proof of citizenship/immigration status)
Manufacturing facilities are also required to register with the FDA. New businesses will have to click on “Login/Create Account” to begin. Be sure to save the information you are given at the end of your registration in a safe place.
If you are producing a product that requires classification (i.e., acidified food or low-acid canned food), review the Guidelines for Food Processing Safety. Depending on the classification, you may need to take a course with a Better Processing Control School of your choice. The University of Georgia offers some in-person classes (view upcoming dates on the UGA Calendar of Events), the University of California offers an online course and there are other course offerings around the country throughout the year. Visit this FDA webpage to learn how to establish your product registration and process filing. Read this letter to AF/LACF processors for additional information.
If you are in need of a Wholesale Fish Dealer’s License, you will need to take a Seafood HACCP course. See our Seafood Safety webpage for more information and additional resources.
If you wish to wholesale/distribute juice products, you must meet the requirements in the 21 CFR 120 regulations. Please note: Unpasteurized juice cannot be sold through wholesale in Georgia. Find additional information and resources online via FDA Juice HACCP, Penn State University Extension, Cornell University College of Agriculture and/or the University of Florida Citrus Extension.
Meat & Poultry: If you plan to make meat or poultry products you will need a license from the Division of Meat Inspection. The Georgia Department of Agriculture – Division of Meat Inspection regulates and inspects operators who intend to:
Slaughter any livestock or poultry for resale, or who intend to provide a slaughtering service to individual livestock or bird owners. (Slaughtering livestock or poultry of one’s own raising for personal use is exempt from inspection.)
Process any meat or poultry products for wholesale which may also include certain activities associated with retail operations. Fully inspected facility responsibilities include: ante-mortem inspection, post-mortem inspection, sanitation inspection, humane handling verification, labeling verification, verification of the plant’s food safety plan (HACCP plan), residue sampling and product and environmental sampling for common foodborne pathogens.
Things that every entrepreneur should consider:
- Product and Process Development – How do you develop your recipe into a commercial market ready food product? What are important steps of making, packaging, and storage of your product?
- Food Regulation – What regulatory standards you will need to follow and what agencies (GDA, FDA, USDA) govern your food business? How certain regulatory provisions of USDA/FDA will affect your business?
- Food Packaging and Labeling – What are your food packaging options? What is the basis of selecting glass, plastic, or metal containers? What goes on my labels and is required by regulations on a food label?
- Food Safety Issues – What are the basics of food safety?
- Target Market – What are your target market options? What is market research and how do you use it?
Please do not hesitate to contact me or my team at EFS@uga.edu or call us at 706-542-2574. Please visit our website for www.fste.uga.edu for technical services information.