Newsflash! All cottage food labels follow individual state and federal labeling regulations. The following 8 best practices offer specific guidelines for labeling cottage foods. We will discuss packaging requirements in another blog post. For now, let’s talk about labeling.

Cottage food laws across the U.S. may ask for different labeling requirements. The principal display panel information (the main product label) is what the consumer sees first. And is usually located on the front of the package. This panel (label) lists the product name, the net quantity of contents and the manufacturer’s address.

Nutritional facts statements are not required unless you are making a nutritional claim. If you use a statement that references a nutrient, like “Low Salt”, “No Sugar”, “Reduced Calorie”, “Low Fat”, “Low Cholesterol”, “High Fiber” then a nutrition facts panel is automatically required.

The information displayed on the main label must be in a size and manner that will allow the average consumer to read it. There are states or counties that will provide more specific information. All print shall be no smaller than 6 point font.  Check to assure this is the requirement for your state/county Cottage Food agency.

Here are the best practices you need to know

1.  Statement of Identity:

Tell the consumer what the product is and a bit about what’s in it. You wouldn’t say nut pie, you would say Pecan Pie. Be specific.

2.  What is your product?

Is the product a cake, pie, cookie, donut? If you’re making a hybrid product or dessert, try to be as specific as possible. For example, the cronut is a cross between a croissant and a donut.

3.  What is it commonly called?

Don’t make the consumer work to figure out the most prominent ingredient. Use clearly defined descriptors like Dark Chocolate Pound Cake, macaroons with shredded coconut flakes or coconut macaroons.

4.  Ingredient Statement

Each ingredient shall be listed in the ingredient statement in decreasing order of predominance. (Largest amount of ingredients are listed first and the smallest list of ingredients last.) Ingredients that are composed of ingredients (sub-ingredients) shall be listed as well. Sub-ingredients shall be listed in parenthesis following the ingredient: For example Ketchup (tomatoes, vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, garlic powder, onion powder….)

Another Great Read:  Great Food Label Examples

Proteins derived from MILK, EGGS, WHEAT, SOY, PEANUTS, TREE NUTS, FISH, & SHELLFISH shall be identified by name within the ingredient statement or in a separate all-inclusive Contains Statement which could read like this. Contains Wheat, Milk, Egg, and Soy

5.  Net Quantity of Contents

Cottage food weights are expressed in English and Metric units. Weight or solid products use the words Net Wt. (Net Weight). Where you place the net weight is also important. Labels should be placed in the lower 30% of the label, and it is usually the last printed line on the label.

If you were wondering about how to assure consistency in your product weight, use the following:
1 oz is equal to 28.35g, 1 fl oz is equal to 30 ml, 1 lb is equal to 454 g. Always round down. For example, if your Bundt Cake is 16.7 ounces and 453.592 grams, round down.

The Bundt Cake net weight is 16 oz. and 453 g. If the customer were to weigh the product they’ll get more, rather than less. No this is not deceit, only a best practice since Cottage Food Operators do not have the tools to accurately assure the weight of each individual food product. If you want to learn about gram measurement register for the free webinar Learn Before You Leap: Pricing for Profit.

Labeling6.  Name and Address of the Manufacturer or Distributor

When placing the street address, city, state, and zip code do not use a P.O. Box. If you have concerns about using your home address speak to your state/county Cottage Food agency.

All CFO should take precautions when allowing consumers to come to their home for product pick-up. If the company name as it appears on the label is listed in the phone book, then the street address may be left off. When products are not manufactured by the company name appearing on the label then use a statement such as “Manufactured for _______” or “Distributed by ________” to express the relationship.

Another Great Read:  North Carolina Cottage Food Operations and eCourse

7. Use Waterproof Labels

If you are creating your own labels created by a printing company ask for waterproof labels. There is nothing worse than being at the farmers market in the rain, watching the ink on your product labels bleed all over the product packaging.

8. Selling individual un-packaged products

There are times when selling individual products is more cost-effective. Are you selling individual cupcakes or cookies at the Farmers Market or Festival? You may want to do the following but check with your Cottage Food agency first. All rules and regulations for selling are different.
In the State of Kentucky, you may sell cakes, cookies cupcakes, etc unwrapped. You do not need a label but you must:
  • Place the product in a container that is safe from insects and contaminates (food netting covers are helpful).
  • Use plastic gloves or tongs to serve the consumer. Do not allow the consumer to pick up any food product with their hands.
Create a “specification sheet” aka SPEC Sheet with the same information you would put on a label. Should a consumer want to know about the ingredients you can share this information. A best practice is to create a SPEC Sheet for all the products you sell.
Place the SPEC Sheets in individual sheet protectors and place them in a binder. Title the binder Company Name SPEC Sheets and include the last date it was updated. You may want to also keep these as documents in a folder on your computer’s desktop.

Do you have questions about labeling your cottage food products? Post in the comment box below.