Further information for small businesses and start ups
Despite the recent surge in the number of new small food business, starting up a commercial food operation is not easy. Even if you are looking to start up a micro food business, it usually requires significant investment in terms of skills, facilities and specialist technical support. We hope the information provided in this document will give you a head start and help you to understand some of the essentials such as food hygiene, safety and legislation. We've also provided some links to valuable sources of free information which will give you an overview of the things you need to know in order to produce food commercially.
Once you have done all your groundwork, you may want to consider our Associate Acorn membership, which is designed specifically for small businesses like yours. As a Campden BRI Acorn member, you'll benefit from significant discounts on our world-renowned services and be reassured knowing that when you need help our friendly experts are just a phone call away.
Specifically, information and links are provided which cover:
The Food Standards Agency website is also a good starting point for information In addition, Campden BRI's Food manufacturing: an overview (Key Topic No. 3) is available at £30. This gives a broad picture of all the major technical issues that impinge on commercial food manufacturing, though it is not (and cannot be) a detailed guide.
Business Link and assistance for small businesses can be found at www.gov.uk.
Specific to food company start-ups, and the requirements for setting up a food business, the Food Standards Agency has a starting up page
Before you can commercially produce food, you need to have appropriate knowledge of and training in food hygiene, labelling and legislation issues, as well as the technical details of what gives the product its characteristics, how these might react when the process is scaled up and how long the product will be fit for sale.
If you have a 'kitchen scale' food product that you think could be commercially successful, there are many issues that you need to consider. The Campden BRI Product Development Guide (Guideline No. 8) will help. Although specifically designed for those trying to come up with ideas for new products, many of the issues raised will be relevant to those who have a product idea they wish to commercialise.
The most important thing to consider when making a food product is that it must be safe to consume. Campden BRI
Key Topic No. 9 - Food preservation: an introduction
will alert you to the type of issues involved. Intimately linked to preservation are the ingredients that you are using in your product.
Your local Environmental Health Officer will also be able to help. Visit here to find out where your nearest Department is located.
The organisation Safe and Local Supplier Approval is also a good point to contact for assistance and advice.
Packaging interacts with the food it contains. It has to be compatible with the food and sometimes with the processing conditions the food will undergo during production. It will always have to be compatible with the storage conditions the food will be subject to. Food Packaging: an introduction 4 (Key Topic No. 7) will give you an idea of what is required.
Once you have decided what type of packaging is likely to be suitable, it would be worth consulting packaging suppliers to confirm the actual specification required. The website www.grocerdirectory.co.uk will provide a good starting point.
Your local Environmental Health Department can offer advice on the type of hygiene training you will need. Even if you are getting an established processor to produce your food product for you, it is essential that you understand basic hygiene concepts - from factory layout, through machinery and equipment design, to personnel and operational hygiene. Campden BRI Key Topic No. 4, Introduction to hygiene in food processing will give you an overview.
The legislation covering food production, marketing and sale is both extensive and complex. The FSA page gives a good introduction.
Of particular relevance to new businesses is the need for a legally correct food label, and as part of this to assign and state the shelf-life of the product.
The label needs to contain the following:
It is up to the manufacturer to decide on how long the product will remain fit to eat - i.e. its shelf life. This will depend on its make-up, how it has been processed and packaged, and how it is stored. The shelf-life can range from 24 hours or less (e.g. for a French baguette) to several years (for canned vegetables in a lacquered can).
Shelf life can be limited by quality issues (i.e. it remains safe, but doesn't taste as good as it should), or safety issues (e.g. it might taste and look OK, but it contains harmful microorganisms).
We cannot over emphasise the importance of understanding your product: what it can (and may) contain, how it needs to be processed and preserved, how this influences its shelf-life and safety.
Training and consultancy from Campden BRI
It is important that you have a good appreciation and understanding of the issues discussed above, so that you can get the most out of the services available from technical specialists - whether it be a standard training course, one-to-one consultancy or a specific service such as a label check or a shelf-life assessment.
Full details of the training courses available can be found here. However, depending on your level of experience in food production, the courses you might find most beneficial are:
The typical cost for an initial consultation with a specialist food technologist is approx £150-£200 per hour, and you would typically need 2 - 4 hours. This would enable the specialist to talk you through the main points but would not include a written report.
If you have produced a food label, it can be assessed to see if it complies with current legislation. A thorough food label review would typically start at around £600. However, if the product or label is complex (for example products with many ingredients, or labels including health and nutrition claims or marketing claims), the review will cost significantly more.
Determining the microbiological shelf life of a product is complex - you need to know what microorganisms might be associated with the product, how it has been processed, how it will be packaged and stored, and its intrinsic characteristics (e.g. acidity, water content, level of salt, sugar, and preservatives etc.). Armed with this knowledge, a typical microbiological shelf life study might cost around £3000, though this will vary with the product type and test requirements.
Once you have done all your groundwork and addressed the issues raised here, you may want to consider Campden BRI membership. This will enable you to take advantage of our services at a reduced member rate and allow you to contact our experts for assistance. Our Associate Acorn membership is designed just for start-up businesses and costs £800 + VAT p.a.
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Where we refer to UKAS Accreditation
Campden BRI (Chipping Campden) Limited is a UKAS accredited testing laboratory No. 1079 Campden BRI (Nutfield) is a UKAS accredited testing laboratory No. 1207