How do I start a cottage food business in Idaho?

Updated: May 17, 2024

Published: May 17, 2024

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If you’re thinking of starting your own home business, selling homemade food is a great choice since you can get started with everything you have at home. But, it can be confusing to navigate the laws and regulations behind it. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know to start a home-based food business in Idaho.

What counts as a home-based food business in Idaho?

A home-based food business is also known as a “cottage food” business, and cottage food means any food that you’re preparing from your home. It also only counts if you’re selling the food you made directly to your customers. You can sell your homemade food online with a tool like FormPay or at in person venues like food stands and farmers’ markets.

What is considered a cottage food in Idaho?

According to the Idaho Food Code, cottage foods include foods that don’t become risky to eat from time or temperature factors. 

These foods include:

  • baked goods that do not require refrigeration, 
  • fruit jams and jellies, 
  • honey, 
  • fruit pies, 
  • breads, 
  • cakes that do not require refrigeration, 
  • pastries and cookies that do not require refrigeration, 
  • candies and confections that do not require refrigeration, 
  • dried fruits, 
  • dry herbs, 
  • seasonings and mixtures,
  • cereals, 
  • trail mixes and granola, 
  • nuts, 
  • vinegar and flavored vinegars, 
  • popcorn and popcorn balls, 
  • or tinctures that do not make medicinal claims. 

Unfortunately, you cannot sell the following:

  • Fruit butter, applesauce, chutney, pepper jams or reduced sugar jams as they can promote bacterial growth.
  • Low Acid Canned Foods such as canned fruits, canned pie fillings, canned meats, or canned vegetables.
  • Acidified foods where there’s an added acid ingredient that reduces the pH to be under 4.6. An example would be pickled products.
  • Raw milk and raw milk products

If you’d like to prove that your food is non-Time/Temperature Control for Safety (non-TCS), then you must submit your food for laboratory testing to show that the pH of the product is 4.6 or lower and that the water activity is lower than 0.85.

How to open a home-based food business in Idaho

It’s simple to start a home-based food business in Idaho. These are the steps you’d typically take to get started:

  1. Determine what foods you want to sell. Make sure it’s within the types of home-based foods you can sell in Idaho. It’s recommended that you label your foods for your customers’ convenience, including their ingredients. This will make it easy for people to see if there are any allergens in your food too. 
  2. Make sure your home is sanitary.Of course, it’s recommended to keep your home clean for the safety of both yourself and your customers. You won’t have to worry about inspections or any legal action, but the government does recommend you to keep things clean, including your equipment and your water quality. 
  3. Set up an online store, or sell in-person at food fairs and farmers’ markets.Once you’ve prepared everything, all you need to do is start to sell your food–it’s that simple. You can either sell at in-person events, like food fairs or farmers’ markets, or set up an online store with an e-commerce tool like FormPay that’s made for cottage food businesses. 
  4. Promote your business. Finally, you just have to promote your business to get your homemade food in the hands of customers. You can start by reaching out to your friends and family then show more people through social media. You can also check out this article for more tips on how to promote your business. 

Do you need a license to sell homemade food in Idaho?

The good news is, no, you don’t need a license to sell homemade food in Idaho! As long as your food counts as non-TCS (Time/Temperature Control for Safety), which means that germs aren’t likely to grow in them, you can sell homemade food without a license directly to the public. While you don’t have to take a food safety course, it’s advised that you do so you can make and deliver your food safely!

How to sell homemade food at farmers’ markets and food fairs in Idaho

If you’re selling non-hazardous food–that is, non-TCS foods as detailed above–you don’t need a license to sell your food at in-person events either. Of course, the details will depend on the event itself, but there are no special legal requirements to sell your homemade food at in-person events in general. 

How to sell homemade food online in Idaho

Most people opt to sell their food online instead. After all, if you’re selling directly to the customer, it’s the fastest and most convenient method. You can use an cottage foods e-commerce service like FormPay to ease up the process. Many independent food businesses, such as G Sweets and Uncle Tim’s Delicacies, rely on FormPay as it has increased their sales and streamlined the buying process for everyone involved. 

How to sell homemade baked goods in Idaho

As mentioned before, any baked goods that don’t require refrigeration, and aren’t at risk of having bacteria grow on them if unrefrigerated, are totally fine to sell as cottage food. 

Such baked goods include: 

  • baked goods that do not require refrigeration, 
  • fruit pies, 
  • breads, 
  • cakes that do not require refrigeration, 
  • and pastries and cookies that do not require refrigeration. 

G Sweets, one of the businesses above that uses FormPay for its sales, primarily sells baked goods as its menu.

Can I sell cakes from home in Idaho?

Yes, you can sell cakes from home in Idaho as long as they don’t require refrigeration. This is because Idaho doesn’t let you sell home-made foods that could promote bacterial growth.

Once you know what type of cakes or baked goods you want to sell from home, you can use FormPay to help you sell your cakes to customers directly online. With FormPay, you can sell standard cakes or let you customers customize it just the way they want. G Sweets is an example seller that uses FormPay to sell their cakes.

Summary

The good news is, Idaho is one of the easiest states to sell homemade food in. You don’t even need a license–all you need to do is come up with a plan and go for it. Whether you want to sell your food in-person or set up an online store using FormPay, you’re free to start your business however you want. 

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