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A taste of home-kitchen-based business

Fountain Valley woman's class will help cottage food entrepreneurs digest state rules to get started.

January 21, 2013|By Jeremiah Dobruck, Los Angeles Times
  • Caron Ory has developed a sugar alternative called Eco-BeeCo and she will teach a class at Orange Coast College about how to develop and sell cottage-industry food products.
Caron Ory has developed a sugar alternative called Eco-BeeCo and she will… (Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot )

When Caron Ory's father was diagnosed with diabetes and struggled to stop eating sugar, the trained dietitian told him not to worry.

"I'll create something for you," she promised.

Through two years of research, trial-and-error recipes and taste tests, Ory came up with Eco-BeeCo, a natural sugar alternative with a tad of freeze-dried honey that passed her requirements nutritionally and her father's gustatory muster.

But when Ory wanted to share her product outside of family and friends, she ran into a hurdle.

To sell the product she'd developed in her home kitchen, California law required her to contract with a commercial kitchen to produce it.

Instead of building a small market and gradually making the transition to large-scale distribution, Ory had to invest $35,000 to blend 6,000 pounds of Eco-BeeCo without ever having sold a pouch of it.

"I spent thousands, and it was a big, big, big risk," she said. "I didn't even know my product was a big seller, and here I am blending 6,000 pounds."

But that hurdle recently disappeared.

Last fall, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1616, a law allowing Californians to make and sell certain non-hazardous foods out of their kitchens. Foods that don't include cream or meat, such as bread, fruit, baked goods, jarred goods and dry mixes — like Eco-BeeCo — could all bypass commercial production and be sold straight out of a home kitchen, according to the law.

When Ory learned that the relaxed requirements would start Jan. 1, she looked for a way she could help others get their products off the ground without making the upfront investment she had.

"Everybody has a signature recipe that they make and people rave about," Ory said.

So, on March 2, Ory, a Fountain Valley resident, will teach a class from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa about AB 1616 and the business of starting a cottage industry out of a home kitchen.

She'll outline the new law and guide students through the basic business side of things, including product assessment, pricing and packaging.

After the class, students will still have to apply for a permit and take a basic food-handling course to get state approval. Ory hopes she can be a mentor to her students as they go through that process.

"With the state of California, it's kind of like a moving target right now because it's a new law," she said.

Eco-BeeCo survived the gantlet of commercial production. It's now available at Whole Foods locations in Southern California and other grocers across the country.

"My dream for all of these people is they can do what I did," Ory said. "I just don't want them to do it with the risk I took on."

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