This week marked an important milestone for aspiring chefs looking to build a home-based food business: the Homemade Food Operations Act (AB 626) was unanimously passed by the California state senate on Wednesday and will become law barring an unlikely objection by California governor Jerry Brown.
The new law will legalize the sale of home cooked food in California. It’s an important step forward in making home cooked food the potentially next big sharing-economy opportunity following the rise of ridesharing and short term home stay marketplaces over the past decade.
The reason this is interesting to me is a) California often leads the country when it comes to forward-leaning legislation and if AB 626 passes it could open the door for nationwide legalization and give a framework for home food entrepreneurs (also known as the ‘cottage food’ industry), and b) I think home cooking is the next big micro-entrepreneur space to open up, much like home sharing and ride sharing did over the past decade.
Just as with craft brewers, aspiring food entrepreneurs often get started in their own kitchens. With the passage of AB 626 in influential California, it’s easy to see how the cottage food business could act as a catalyst for bigger food businesses in the future. As we learned this week from Eric Rivera, home cooking businesses can be a gateway for future restaurant innovators and operators.
The passing of AB 626 is also a big win for the folks behind COOK Alliance, the organization formed by a cofounder of the now-defunct cottage food sharing platform Josephine. Former Josephine co-CEO and COOK Alliance founder Matt Jorgensen has made it his mission to advocate for the legalization of cottage food industry, in large part because he sees it as a significant economic opportunity for low-income populations without any startup capital other than a home kitchen and cooking know-how.
From Jorgensen’s own blog post in July:
We believe home cooking helps build healthy, resilient communities and create economic opportunities for the people that need them most. Outdated food codes criminalize informal homemade food sellers, resulting in fines and misdemeanors for entrepreneurs who are most typically low-income women, immigrants, and people of color.
From here the bill goes to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown and once passed, home cooks with permits can start selling food to their hungry neighbors.