Specialty Food Producer Classroom

This is a place for people thinking about launching a specialty food business. Here you will find a list of the steps you need to take to get your business from concept to launch. You will have access to a variety of helpful resources and tools that you can utilize as you need them. The Franklin County CDC team will host periodic discussions to cover specific topics, such as understanding the basics of shelf stability, navigating food labeling regulations, retail and wholesale licensing, etc. You can visit this site anytime you want to investigate the next phase of your business planning. You can also use this space to post questions to the CDC team and other specialty food businesses.

Lesson one: Labeling

The FDA requires that all food product labels contain the following components:

  • - Product Identity (ie. maple syrup, hot sauce, green tea)
  • - Net contents: volume or weight depending on your product category (see competitors!)
  • - Ingredient Statement
  • - Address for your business
  • - Nutrition facts (some exemptions may apply)


Resources for label printing:




Lesson two: Shelf Life

As a food producer, you need to determine whether or not your product will be shelf stable, refrigerated or frozen. This will determine your products SHELF LIFE. Many shelf stable products have a shelf life of 2+ years, while frozen products have a shelf life of 12-18 months. Refrigerated products of course have a much shorter shelf life, often of just a few weeks. 

You do not have to add preservatives to your food product to make it shelf stable. Instead, products like sauces, beverages, and toppings can be made shelf stable by controlling a number of factors, including the pH, temperature, or water activity. Items like salsa, tomato sauce, bbq sauce and many beverages are made shelf stable by controlling the acidity (pH). Other products, like hot fudge or ghee, are preserved by controlling water activity, or reducing the amount of water available for pathogenic growth. 

Shelf life is a measure of QUALITY, not FOOD SAFETY. Your shelf life will be based on the time it takes for you product to degrade - color, texture, taste.

You can connect with a Process Authority, such as blank at Cornell or blank at UMaine, to conduct a formal shelf life study and potentially increase the shelf-life you have established on your own.