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How to Start a Food Business in Arkansas

A food processing business involves commercial food production sold either directly to the consumer or to a wholesale market. An entrepreneur in this industry could be a grower wanting to make food products from surplus crops or a person with a recipe or idea for a new food product. This overview will help you determine whether or not starting a processed food business is right for you.


Initial Steps

Market Research and Business Considerations

The first step in this process is to determine whether your food product concept will be successful and profitable in the marketplace. Activities such as visiting local markets, conducting interviews with retail market managers, researching trends in the packaged food industry and comparing competitor prices can provide valuable insight. 

If the product seems profitable, create a business plan to guide your financial goals and management strategies. Your local Small Business Technology Development Center can assist you with this process and also help you to formalize your company.

Cottage Foods or Manufactured Wholesale Foods?

To help build up capital, some companies start by making cottage food products. These are items that can be made in a home kitchen and require less regulatory oversight. To understand the difference between cottage foods and wholesale manufactured foods please view our resource page. 


Proceeding with a Manufactured Wholesale Food Product

The How to Start a Food Processing Business in Arkansas publication by the Arkansas Food Innovation Center is a great in-depth resource to guide you through these steps.

Product Development, Testing and Scale Up

To develop a food product, start with a description of your product including the recipe, processing methods and packaging required. Next you must determine if the product can be safely produced to reduce any potential food hazardous. Reach out to your local Environmental Health Specialist to discuss your product in the beginning stages of development. 

NOTE: Some categories of products, such as salsa and BBQ sauce, will require additional processing verification. There are fees associated with this certificate.

To make test batches for a commercial scale up of your verified recipe, consider using a shared-use commercial kitchen facility. Here is a listing of facilities in Arkansas:

Processing Rules and Regulations

When you have finalized your commercial scale recipe, your product will need to be approved and made in a facility inspected and permitted as a "Manufactured/Wholesale Food Establishment" by the Arkansas Department of Health. Consider starting out in a shared-use commercial kitchen until you are ready to build your own establishment.

Companies that manufacture food are also subject to the federal Food Safety Modernization Act, Prevention Controls for Human Food. Read this factsheet to learn more. 

You will also need to obtain food product liability insurance to protect you and your company in the event of an unforeseen food safety issue.

Labeling

When developing your label, be sure to include these mandatory elements:

  • Statement of identity 
  • Net weight 
  • Ingredient list 
  • Name and place of business of manufacturer, packer or distributor
  • Nutrition Facts label
  • Product Code (in the event of a recall)

View the Food and Drug Administration's guidance on food labeling here.

 


Are there any resources to help me get started?

Attend our upcoming workshop

In this all-day workshop, participants will learn how to manufacture food products or aggregate produce through shared-use kitchen facilities.

A Taste for Food Businesses: Opportunities for Food Processing and Aggregation

In this eight-hour workshop, participants will learn how to manufacture food products or aggregate produce for commercial markets.

  • Extension State Office 2301 S. University Ave., Little Rock, AR 27704
  • $20 registration fee which includes lunch by the Root Cafe

Share Grounds

The Share Grounds facilities are permitted by the Arkansas Department of Health and are a space available to clients who want to develop, test and manufacture food products. Visit our client page and contact your local Share Grounds manager to discuss your food concept and business needs.

Arkansas Food Innovation Center

The Share Grounds project is a smaller model of the Arkansas Food Innovation Center (AFIC). The AFIC was established to assist entrepreneurs and farmers prepare food products for sale in commercial markets. 

The AFIC is a certified and inspected facility for food product development and processing for commercial sales. The AFIC is a fee-based service located in Northwest Arkansas and the UA System Division of Agriculture Food Science Department. Watch their video below to learn more.

The AFIC has developed a number of publications to assist entrepreneurs in understanding the technical, legal, and financial aspects of creating a small scale food processing business in Arkansas.

AFIC Publications

Additional Resources