What is cottage food?
Cottage foods are foods prepared and packaged in a home-kitchen for sale at farmers markets. These may include jams, jellies, baked goods, pickles, hot sauces, salsas, canned tomatoes and other artisan foods and pre-made foods. Illinois has an estimated 500+ cottage food producers, with growing interest.
What’s the issue:
Restrictive regulations prevent cottage food producers from selling their products outside of seasonal farmers markets. They cannot sell from their home, they cannot sell through fairs and festivals, and they cannot deliver to your door. They have very few options for selling over the winter, and farmers markets are not available in every community. These regulations hamper business growth and cripple start-up food businesses.
What does the Home-to-Market Act Do in a Nutshell?
- Expands sales avenues for cottage food producers to include sales at fairs and festivals, from home, online, and through home delivery, enabling cottage food entrepreneurs to reach new customers and grow their businesses.
- Includes buttercream icing to the list of products that can be made in a home kitchen, freeing up home bakers to make cakes, cupcakes, and other in-demand baked goods.
- Adds further food safety provisions in order to insure public safety while reasonably allowing farmers and food entrepenuers to operate from home kitchens.
- Home-based food businesses and farms have been hit hard by the pandemic and need support now more than ever. These small businesses have been left out of pandemic relief efforts and are struggling with lack of sales opportunities. Farmers markets are the only place, with few exceptions, that home-based food operations can sell their products. In 2020 many farmers markets delayed opening and sales and attendance were down.
- Cottage food businesses are in the perfect position to provide safe, low or no contact delivery or pick-up options that customers are looking for– but the law needs to change so that they can better grow their businesses and meet the needs of their communities.
- More and more individuals and families are looking for ways to safely earn income from their homes due to the pandemic and recent layoffs. Reforming cottage food law will provide more entrepreneurs, especially women, minority, and low-income entrepreneurs, a means to start or grow a home-based food business and bring in additional income during this critical time.
- Illinois has one of the most restrictive laws in the nation when it comes to where cottage food producers can sell their products. Updating the law will bring Illinois up to speed with other states across the U.S.
- Illinois has an estimated 500+ cottage food businesses. This reform effort is an easy, no-cost, hand-up to farms and food businesses across the state.
Who will benefit?
- Women-owned businesses. In a recent survey by Illinois Stewardship Alliance, 77% of cottage food entrepreneurs are owned by women.
- Low-income entrepreneurs. Good cottage food regulations provide a low-cost entry point for starting and growing a food business.
- Small farmers. In a recent survey by Illinois Stewardship Alliance, 33% of cottage food entrepreneurs described themselves. Cottage foods give farmers the ability to add more value to their fruits and vegetables and increase their bottom lines by turning them into the products that consumers crave. They also make Illinois farmers markets and agritourism venues more unique and more marketable.
- The public. This bill provides consumers with more choice and more options to support local farms and businesses in our state and experience unique and delicious products grown and made in Illinois
- This bill will address food sovereignty. People should reasonably be able to make and sell food to feed their communities, and this bill provides that opportunity.
- This bill will provide greater opportunity to minority and women-owned businesses who have traditionally had less resources to start their own businesses.
- This bill will grow the number and income of food businesses in our state, capturing greater tax revenue for our state.
- This bill will keep more food dollars local and support local businesses. In a recent survey by Illinois Stewardship Alliance, an overwhelming majority of cottage food producers prioritize purchasing ingredients from neighboring farms and businesses.
- This bill will build rural economies. In a recent survey by Illinois Stewardship Alliance, over 1/2 of all cottage food producers live in rural areas.
List of Reforms Made in the Home-to-Market Act + Rationale
Expands sales avenues beyond farmers markets to include delivery, pick-up, fairs and festivals, online sales, and other direct-to-consumer sales avenues.
Rationale: The current law limits sales avenues primarily to farmers markets. This hampers growth of many farm and home kitchen operations. Farmers markets are seasonal and are not always convenient for small businesses. Expanding sales avenues allows farms and small businesses to legally and safely reach new customers who are looking for local products.
Allows buttercream icing to be used under cottage food law.
Rationale: Buttercream icing made without eggs is shelf-stable and is deemed a low risk food. Adding an exception to allow for buttercream icing enables home bakers to legally make high demand items such as cupcakes, wedding cakes, and more.
Removes the Home-Kitchen Ordinance and replaces it by opening up home sales avenues, with local control, through the Cottage Food Law
Rationale: Although the Home Kitchen Ordinance exists in principle, only a handful of municipalities have adopted it, making it largely void of impact. The Home Kitchen Ordinance provides very little in the way of food safety provisions, making it difficult to pass on a local level. Additionally, the existence of both the Home Kitchen Ordinance and the Cottage Food Law is a source of confusion to food entrepreneurs looking to start a business. The new Cottage Food Bill prioritizes food safety and makes the Home Kitchen Ordinance obsolete by expanding sales avenues to include home sales in municipalities where home-based businesses are allowed.
Adds new food safety provisions for acidified and fermented foods, including giving health departments authorization to ask for ph tests.
Rationale: Acidified and fermented foods are classified as high risk foods. The most effective and economical way to verify that an acidified or fermented food has the proper pH levels to be deemed safe is through pH testing. These tests are relatively low-cost to cottage food producers and can provide more food safety assurance to local health departments. The new provision also requires acidified and fermented foods that are not canned with a boiling water bath to be refrigerated during transport and sale, per USDA guidelines.
Updated labeling requirements– more flexibility, but more emphasis on the warning label
Rationale: Cottage food businesses cannot always fit labels on each individual package, especially when packages are small or oddly shaped. Health departments report that the warning labels are not large enough on some labels, especially ones that are small, to give the public proper notice. This bill updates labeling requirements to insure that warning labels are prominent both at point-of-sale and on packaging, while also giving cottage food operators flexibility to work with health departments on small or odd packages.
Adds a simple water testing requirement for cottage food operations not using municipal water supplies
Rationale: This is a food safety provision to prevent water-born food safety outbreaks. It only applies to cottage food operations using well or other un-tested water supplies. Water testing is economical, ranging from $10 -$30 pers test, and widely available through local health departments.
Clarifies annual registration and provides local health departments with authority to create a process for revoking registration.
Rationale: This updated language gives local health departments greater ability to address bad actors and cottage food operations that are not following the law.
Pre-empts home-rule municipalities from regulating cottage food businesses in a manner that is inconsistent with this act,
Rationale: Regulations that vary county to county are confusing for cottage food businesses– especially ones that sell their products in multiple counties. This law provides consistent regulation across the state in terms of the registration process, products that can be made, and sale avenues. At the SAME time, this bill insures that home-rule municipalities still have the ability to regulate home-based cottage food businesses in the same manner they would regulate other home-based businesses. Home-rule ordinances around zoning, signage, parking, etc, can still be applied to cottage food businesses.