A growing number of small-business owners are trying their hands at home-food production each year. For many, it works well since they don’t have to pay for a storefront or large-scale kitchen to produce their goods. However, as business picks up and production needs exceed their home space, many aren’t quite ready to go large scale and are left struggling to determine the next step.
Karin Allen, Utah State University Extension food quality and entrepreneurship specialist, saw the need for the middle stage of business growth, and saw the USU Family Life Building food classrooms with five complete kitchen units as an answer to this challenge.
“There is too big of a gap from home food production to being able to do it on a large scale, so that’s why the USU Extension Incubator Kitchen was established,” Allen said. “These kitchen units are all regular scale and are what home producers are used to, so they don’t have to jump from a two-gallon mixer to a commercial-sized mixer. These kitchens make it so they can mass produce, but it is still at their comfort level.”
Allen said in total, there are seven electric stoves, four gas stoves, a two-tier deck oven, nine five-quart Viking mixers and eight Cuisinart food processors, as well as standard kitchen equipment.
In addition to the Incubator Kitchen, there is also an Innovation Kitchen available in the Nutrition and Food Sciences Building where entrepreneurs can experiment with a commercial-sized kitchen. Allen said it has been beneficial to those interested in testing production on a large scale.
The Incubator Kitchen was certified by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food on the spot as the inspector toured the facility last October. The kitchen is inspected on an annual basis, and all entrepreneurs must meet with the UDAF inspector to certify their individual businesses.
Allen said entrepreneurs are not charged for the first six months they use the Incubator Kitchen so they can get a foot in the door. After six months, they can continue using the kitchens at a charge, rent a restaurant kitchen or get a business loan for their own food establishment once they have experimented and have an idea of how their business will go.
She said there are several regular users of the Incubator Kitchen.
Craig and Kami Huntzinger of North Logan use it for their honey product business, Bees Brothers. They raise their own bees and were making honey caramels at home under the cottage industry regulations, but in order to sell out of state, they needed a dedicated kitchen for their product. A vendor at the farmers market told the Huntzingers about the Incubator Kitchen, and they have been using it for almost a year.
“Nothing else around fills that niche for people who have small businesses like ours who don’t have enough money to build their own dedicated kitchen and don’t have a place to rent,” said Kami. “The Incubator Kitchen is ideal for our needs.”
Allen said kitchen use is based on availability.
“Of course, USU students who are taking foods classes have first priority for the kitchens, but there are still time slots available,” she said. “Kitchen users are required to have a food handler’s permit and a business license. They must also get approval for their food product through UDAF.”
Allen said those interested in using the Incubator Kitchen can contact her for further information at email@example.com or by calling 435-797-1768. She can also answer questions about quality shelf life testing, regulatory requirements, product development and finding sources for ingredients, production equipment and packaging.
Contact: Karin Allen, USU Extension food quality and entrepreneurship specialist, 435-797-1768, firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Julene Reese, USU Extension writer, 435-797-0810, email@example.com