Institute for Justice · May 18, 2021

MONTGOMERY, Ala.—Alabama is taking a major step forward for food entrepreneurs and consumers with Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature of SB160, which will lift Alabama’s restrictive $20,000 cap on gross sales, allow the sale of all shelf-stable foods and allow online sales and shipping. This will allow Alabamans who want to make a living selling delicious homemade or “cottage foods,” to finally do so. The Institute for Justice (IJ), a national advocate for food freedom that helped craft the bill, celebrated what this change in law will mean for Alabama families.

“Alabama’s sales cap and shipping restrictions made it unfeasible for most Alabamans to start a homemade food business,” said IJ Legislative Counsel Meagan Forbes. “This law will enable thousands of Alabamans to support their families through a homemade food business.”

One Alabama home baker, Melissa Humble from Headland, testified to the Alabama Senate Healthcare Committee that she supported the bill because “It will help my family and other families in Alabama recover from the pandemic.”

Ms. Humble sells French macaroons and other baked goods, which has proved helpful for her family during the pandemic. As a teacher and photographer with an immunocompromised partner, Melissa decided it would be best for her family to not work her traditional job during the pandemic. Operating a cottage food business has allowed her to support her family while staying at home. But she faced unnecessary barriers that reduced her business’s earning potential.

“In December alone, over twenty people requested to purchase my baked goods and have them shipped, but I had to turn them away because of the way the law is written. I lost $400 in sales,” she testified.

Now, effective August 1, Alabamans will have the ability to have a thriving cottage food business.

“This law means new opportunities for my business, and more food options for people across Alabama,” said Melissa. “Online sales will really benefit me and my customers.”

In 2017, IJ authored the nation’s first comprehensive study of cottage food businesses, which showed that cottage food businesses serve as an important path to entrepreneurship for their owners, who are often lower-income women. Even a small amount of extra income from a cottage food business can be helpful to lower-income households struggling during the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic led many Alabamans to want to start a homemade food business, but many realized how difficult it is to open up shop because of onerous state rules and regulations,” said IJ Activism Associate Andrew Meleta. “This law will be especially helpful as Alabamans recover from the economic damage of the pandemic. Cottage food laws create flexible job opportunities, especially for women, and support local economies.”

IJ has won constitutional challenges to Wisconsin’s ban on the sale of home-baked goods and to Minnesota’s restrictions on the right to sell home-baked and home-canned goods. IJ has also helped pass laws expanding the sale of homemade foods in several states across the country, including in Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, West Virginia, Wyoming and D.C.