With booming consumer demand for specialty and artisanal foods, a growing number of entrepreneurs armed with little more than a dream and recipe are turning to kitchen incubators in hopes of turning their ideas into reality.
For those not familiar, kitchen incubators are formally organized, shared kitchen facilities that have the licensing and equipment needed for commercial food production. Incubators are equipped with walk-in refrigerators, dry food storage units and other conveniences that may otherwise be too costly for an individual to afford. Although incubators have their own guidelines, members typically go through an application process and use of a facility is usually rented out by the month.
Journey Gosselin is the founder of City Food Studio, a kitchen incubator in Minneapolis, who in a recent Star Tribune article noted that “people didn’t used to start as small as they can now.” Along with the demand for specialty and small-batch production, state-specific legislation like the “Pickle Bill” passed by Minnesota’s legislature in 2010 are also helping to give a boost to incubators, allowing for the limited sale of certain home-processed and home-canned foods.
Kitchen incubators are also becoming the top spaces for chefs, bakers, food truck operators and other entrepreneurs whose businesses are not yet ready for a production site of their own.
Additionally, the shared worksites are becoming more than just a production facility. Many incubators’ mission statements often emphasize community, where entrepreneurs can support and share their knowledge and expertise with one another.
Pol Sorquist, an operations manager at The Kindred Kitchen, told online publication The Line, that “tapping into [these] networks is a huge value.”
And beyond the support from fellow entrepreneurs, many facilities like Crop Circle Kitchen, which is located outside of Boston, are providing business training to vendors and linking them to opportunities for retail sale.
Last summer, BevNET visited two rapidly expanding kitchen incubators in New York City, each bustling with entrepreneurial activity, detailed in “The Incubation Jungle” and “Brooklyn’s New Medicine.” As described in the articles, the emergence of these facilities has sprung and fueled the growth of trendy brands in a categories like cold-pressed juice and kombucha.
Over the next several weeks, FBU will be going deeper into the world of kitchen incubators with in-depth interviews and reporting on how start-up companies can make use of this important resource. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to submit questions they have through our LinkedIn page.