All across the United States, people are making food at home to sell in their communities. Together, they form a small but growing industry—the homemade or “cottage food” industry. The movement fits within a larger trend toward healthy eating and responsible sourcing, as consumers take greater interest in where their food comes from and who makes it. Alaska expanded opportunities for cottage food producers in 2012, when the state adopted rules allowing direct, in-person sales of many types of homemade foods.
Alaska cottage food types
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Alaska cottage food producers may sell nonperishable homemade foods that do not require time or temperature control for safety. Examples include many types of baked goods, candies, jams, jellies, honey, salsas, ketchup, cereals, pastas, and dry goods such as herbs, nuts and seeds. Alaska also allows the sale of soda and some types of fruit juices. If cottage food producers are unsure about the safety of any product or whether it requires refrigeration for safety, lab testing may be required. Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation provides additional guidance…
Alaska cottage food venues
Alaska cottage food producers may sell directly to end consumers, including from their homes, but the state bans online sales. Allowable venues include farmers’ markets, roadside stands and special events. Alaska bans cottage food sales at restaurants and retail outlets like grocery stores.
Getting started in Alaska
Alaska cottage food producers do not need a government inspection, permit or training to get started, but some local jurisdictions may require a business license. Local rules may vary in other ways. Anchorage, for example, has its own rules for cottage food sales. Statewide, Alaska cottage food producers must have recipes available in case concerns arise about the safety of any product. Alaska cottage food producers are limited to $25,000 in gross annual sales.
Alaska cottage food labels
Alaska cottage food producers must put labels on all packaged foods. Labels must include either an Alaska business license number or the name, physical address and telephone number of the individual who prepared the food. This allows regulators to trace the product back to the producer if there is a problem or complaint. Alaska cottage food producers also must inform the consumer by a card, placard, sign or label placed in a conspicuous area that states: “THESE PRODUCTS ARE NOT SUBJECT TO STATE INSPECTION.”
Alaska cottage food facts
Myths about cottage food abound. Here are the facts:
- Cottage food is safe. Critics who talk about the risk of food-borne illness give hypothetical examples of what could go wrong because real-world cases are rare or nonexistent.
- Cottage food is local. When neighbors trade with neighbors, money stays in the local economy.
- Cottage food is transparent. People who buy from a cottage food producer know what they get. If they have questions about ingredients, sourcing or safety, they can ask.
- Cottage food creates jobs. Many homemade food producers use their income to provide for their families. Others seek a secondary or supplemental income.
- Cottage food empowers women. IJ’s cottage food research shows that most cottage food producers are women, and many live in rural areas with limited economic opportunity.
- Cottage food expands consumer choice. Some stores simply don’t sell what you want. This is especially true if you have a gluten-free, peanut-free, halal, kosher or vegan diet. Cottage food fills market gaps, giving consumers more options.
Alaska cottage food resources
As part of its Food Freedom Initiative, the Institute for Justice provides a variety of resources for home bakers and other food entrepreneurs. These include:
- Model Food Freedom Act from the Institute for Justice guides activism efforts at state capitols nationwide.
- Flour Power: How Cottage Food Entrepreneurs Are Using Their Home Kitchens to Become Their Own Bosses surveys 775 cottage food producers in 22 states about what their businesses mean to them.
- Ready to Roll highlights nine lessons from the Institute for Justice’s cottage food victory in Wisconsin.
- The Attack on Food Freedom examines the impact of regulations on farmers, chefs, artisans, restaurateurs, food truck operators and others.
Tell your Alaska story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in Alaska? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
Support Alaska legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Alaska by teaming with the Institute for Justice. Send an email with your name, background information and availability to get started…
Defending homemade food freedom nationwide
People have a right to earn an honest living without arbitrary and excessive government interference. Since 2013, the Institute for Justice has defended home bakers and chefs as part of its Food Freedom Initiative. Read about IJ’s nationwide food freedom advocacy…
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All information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Statutes, regulations, and processes are subject to change at any time, and specific facts and circumstances could alter how they are applied. If you have questions about the regulation of cottage foods in your jurisdiction, we recommend consulting a lawyer who can help you navigate the process.