Monthly Archives: April 2013

VCs Love Tech – And They’re Loving Food

Photo credit: Bryce Vickmark for The New York Times

Photo credit: Bryce Vickmark for The New York Times

Happy Tuesday! The New York Times published an article highlighting the growing trend of VC capital flowing into innovative food startups.

An excerpt from the article sums up the attraction VCs have for food:

“Part of the reason you’re seeing all these V.C.’s get interested in this is the food industry is not only is it massive, but like the energy industry, it is terribly broken in terms of its impact on the environment, health, animals,” said Josh Tetrick, founder and chief executive of Hampton Creek Foods, a start-up making egg alternatives.

And by the numbers: last year, VCs invested $350 million in food projects, which marked an 37% increase from the year before. Even though the $350 million is a small proportion of the total VCs invest, the growth rate is remarkable.

There are still a doubts VCs have about food startups, and it’s intriguing to see they are grappling with some of the same issues we are trying to explore in our meetup group!

Check out the full article here.


Lean Food Startup NYC Meetup 1 Wrap

LFS NYC Meetup 1 (1)

Thanks to those of you who came for the first installment of Lean Food Startup NYC meetup!

Tonight, we covered the context of lean startup, basic underlying principles, explored the concept of startups as a series of untested hypotheses, and posed the question of whether or not lean startup practices can be applied to food.

We also took some time as a group to go over the Business Model Canvas, which is a variant of the Lean Canvas. You can view a quick video about it here.

We used as a case study, and the results are logged in the slides which you can download here: LFS NYC Meetup 1 Slides – PDF

Lastly, we wrapped up with some discussion about how we could best structure future meetups, and a call to action for people to read up about lean startup, and try to put some practices to use in their own food startups. Try to do a business model canvas on your own, and if you like, share your results. We also proposed different ways we could make use of the meetup discussion board as well as this blog. If you have ideas/content you’d like to discuss, or post, let us know.

Till next time!
Lean Food Startup Team

Notes from EWVIDCO Permits & Licensing Workshop @ BK Kitchen

Below are notes from a seminar organized by EWVIDCO, an organization specializing in supporting local north Brooklyn manufacturers, and hosted by Brooklyn Kitchen, a local purveyor of kitchen supplies, spices, equipment. The topic was about food permits and licenses. Slides will be made available and we will post as they become available.

There is some great info in here, as well as references to resources available to food entrepreneurs based in NYC.

David Lepkoff, NYS Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspections
NYS Jurisdiction

  • Restaurants and retail bakeries are under jurisdiction of New York City
  • NYS also do not regulate caterers
  • If the majority of your sales will be retail, you will fall into NYC’s jurisdiction. If majority of sales will be wholesale, you will fall into NYS’ jurisdiction. A joint determination will be made, but only one license will be needed.
  • However, if you are going to manufacture for retail and wholesale, you cannot do so in the same location with two 20-C licenses, but you can do it with a 20-C license and city license.
  • Grocery stores
  • Bodegas
  • Food warehouses
  • Wholesale manufacturers
  • Wholesale bakeries (not direct selling to customer)
  • Wineries and 3 distillers
  • Butchers
  • Live poultry market and red meat slaughter facilities

Figure out your location
If you’re under state jurisdiction, you’re going to be producing in one of three settings:

  • Home (home processing), license exempt, very limited items can fall into this category, such simple baked goods
  • Commercial kitchen, 20-C license required ($400 for 2 years, good from date of issuance, an inspection will take place in a few days and be issued within a week), prior approval needed for complex food products (acidified foods, acid foods, refrigerated foods, etc.)
  • Your own facility, 20-C license required, although meat producers (more than 3% raw, 2% cooked meat by content) will fall USDA regulation
  • Separate locations require separate licenses

Licensing Information, Article 20-C

Licensing Process

  1. You have your product.
  2. You need to have proper food labels- Improper labeling could result in serious consequences (allergens).
  3. You have a facility to manufacture that’s up to code:
  4. You get the necessary inspection, minimum once a year. Inspections are unscheduled. Inspectors are trained to look over many factors. Basics include checking for vermin, proper equipment, strict adherence to food safety. If you fail your first inspection, you will be given tips on what you need to fix within 2 months to pass re-inspection. You could be allowed to operate in the interim.
  5. If you pass inspection, you will receive notice of inspection which you can post at your business, and you will get your 20-C Food Processing License within a few business days.

Roxanne Mills, speaking on Home Processing
Home Processing

  • Home processor: a person who wants to use home kitchen, with standard kitchen equipment (not industrial).
  • You have to check if your residence is zoned for commercial activity. Check with your local zoning board.
  • You can make bread and rolls, baked goods without fresh fruit, meats, or butter. Traditional jams and jellies as well.
  • If you are producing for events, you are considered a caterer, and subject to NYC regulation.
  • Labeling requirements: name, address of manufacturer (city, state, ZIP if you are incorporated), name and type of product, ingredients (greatest to least by weight) find guidelines:
  • You cannot list prices or take orders online or by phone. You can advertise.
  • You cannot split your operation between home and commercial kitchen.
  • Get your ingredients from approved sources and maintain traceability.
  • You will receive a home processor’s license upon passing a proper inspection.
  • Home processors can sell both retail and wholesale.
  • Exemption from licensing
  • Prohibited items: food requiring refrigeration, acidified foods, not even fried plantains, no active cultures.

The Dark Side – why you shouldn’t gamble

  • No inspection and no license = unapproved source.
  • The state will seize and destroy your product.
  • The state may issue a recall for your product.
  • The state may pursue legal action.
  • You could harm or kill someone!

Steven Shallo, New York City New Business Acceleration Team (NBAT)
The City’s Fabric

  • Restaurants are integral to the city’s economy
  • 4,700 new restaurants opening yearly
  • Employs nearly 270,000 New Yorkers
  • 20,000 establishments in all boroughs
  • Manhattan has majority of all establishments

Government agencies that you have to deal with:

  • Department of Buildings
  • Department of Health
  • FDNY
  • Department of Consumer Affairs
  • Department of Environmental Protection
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Landmarks Preservation
  • Department of Planning

Services NBAT can provide for small businesses

  • Local government navigation
  • Accelerate DOB and FDNY plan reviews
  • Identify potential cross designation of agency resources
  • Streamline existing inter agency processes
  • Coordinate and sequence multi-agency inspections:
    • Dept. of Health 0 ex: food establishment
    • Dept. of Environmental Protection – ex: Grease interceptors
    • FDNY – rangehood
    • Dept. of Buildings – ex: construction, plumbing

How to utilize NBAT services
NYC Business Express: one stop online tool that makes it easier to start, operate, and expand a business in NYC

  • Provides single source of information
  • Offers instructions for meeting requirements
  • Provides a platform for businesses to offer their information
  • You can create an account and view later
  • Business owners who utlizie the wizard can submit credentials to NBAT via Salesforce

Upon enrolling in the NBAT program, each business is assigned a client manager, who provides the following services:

  • Facilitates all interactoins with the city on behalf of the business
  • Evaluate the business and identify requried items/inspections
  • Address all business specific concerns to avoid future compliance issues
  • Schedule and coordinate most required inspections
  • Address all questions, comments, and concerns

Businesses then undergoing new construction within their space can receive streamlined plan reviews through NBAT

  • NBAT Plan examiners will review most e-filed plans
  • Schedule meetings with applicants to discuss objections or compliance issues
  • Work in conjunction with DOB and FDNY to address/resolve complex code requirements

NBAT coordinates multi-agency inspections:

  • Inspections are conducted to ensure satisfactory compliance with all health and fire codes
  • Scheduling available online at
  • Results are provided immediately
  • Re-inspections are conducted when necessary

Mobile Food Vending Units (food trucks, carts)

  • NBAT does not deal with this process
  • Number of permits is fixed
  • Permits are issued on a lottery basis, permits can be freed up from deaths, seizure, but are very limited

Question and Answer

  • Q: Can you be in a commercial kitchen and do wholesale as well as catering? A: Yes, you could be licensed to do both.
  • Q: What is the general difference between State and City licensures? A: City regulates almost all direct to customer food service establishments. State requirements are so extensive that it’s not easy to generalize. Contact a consultant to help differentiate what is required of you in terms of regulation, or something like NBAT.
  • Q: What licenses does the city offer? A: Mobile food vending license. Non-retail food establishments permit. Food protection certificate (safe handling of food). Restaurant and food handlers license.
  • Q: Beer and wine licenses? A: These are regulated by the state, although if you are a bar, you need certification from the City’s department of health
  • Q: Out of state producers, if you are storing here in New York State? A: You’d have to obtain a warehouse permit. If you’re selling direct to customer then you’re subject to City regulation.

Here are the slides:
NYS Ag and Markets Presentation