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co-packer Looking for a co-packer, any recommendations?

I am in search of a co-packer. I will have tons of questions first and will not be ready to produce until feb. or march. I want to get the rest of my paperwork done first. Also would like to find one willing to ask me questions about thingsw I am to new in this business to think about. I've been searching the internet but the companies I find consider a small run around 300 gallons! :) (Something like that.) I wnat to test my product first and don't want to fill my livingroom with boxes.
Been reading lots of papers on how to pick one, one problem I see for me is the part about touring the facility (All agree this is very important, I see their point.) I live in the middle of nowhere, and I still have a day job. I don't have the the frequent flyer mile to cash in to take a bunch of trips all over and I don't have the vacation time either. I can handle two or so. Do co-packers have a problem in telling potential clients about their other clients so I can contact them and ask questions?
While local is much better, due to shipping, etc, I beleive that dannycash.com here in Colorado specializes in hot sauce co-packers. While some follks don't want to mention they're not actually cooking their own product, that info (at leas the address) has to be placed on the label.

We have been using a co-packer, which I'm not very happy with, for our mustard, as neither one of us has a "canning certificate" which is required, at least in our state, so we don't have to refrigerate the product (did that for several monthes during farmer's market season).
The Guy, a co-packer isn't going to do an extremely small run just so you can test market your products. Our co-packer deals with a minimum of 50 gallon batches, which is still a good number of bottles. You must expect to have overhead stock, as co-packers will fit you into their schedules as they see fit, so the "just in time" packaging doesn't really work. I have been dealing with boxes upon boxes for a while now, as I would think many conpanies do as well. If you are looking for "test market" size quantities, find a local commercial kitchen and make your own for the time being, until you draw enough of a demand to place an order. I myself have a day job, as does my wife, starting up a business like this is not the easiest thing in the world, so expect to give up a good portion of your free time (and living space). Weekends for us don't exist anymore, but the final product is worth it.
50 Gallons would be very acceptable! Did not mean to imply I wanted to get tiny quantities. I have been doing small amounts in a restaurant kitchen (20 gallon steam kettle) and wanted to move up and on with this venture. I wanted to move from the homecanned mason jar to the professional packaged sauce bottle.

The Hot Pepper

The_Guy said:
I have been doing small amounts in a restaurant kitchen (20 gallon steam kettle) and wanted to move up and on with this venture.
Is that legal in your state? Usually restaurant kitchens are not approved for food packaging, only ready-to-eat.
Well, when I went for the business license I had no problem getting it, they said I had to be in an approved kitchen and the county health inspector approved the whole thing. It could be that I live in a very rural county, (more cows than people... really!) should I be investigating this more??? :hell:
It is possible this is all you need. However, the name of the game is "cover your *ss". I would suggest you contact your State Health Dept. and ask them basically the question you just raised. You may need a license from them. Better to cover all bases, than get thrown out at home.
I agree with Marco...if it is good or even above average you will sell it. Hit a bunch of local festivals with your product no matter how small...get your name out there and then hit up a few stores in that same area that way people know your name and buy it at the store when they see it....you will be surprised.

The other alternative is to do like us and go through all the FDA and State red tape and make your own, course not probably the recommended route for most people. Our goal is to be able to grow our business and to co-pack for small up and coming ma and pa companies like yourself with low minimums like around 30 to 40 cases, unfortunately we are a year or so away taking our time and trying to find the right place, plus brother wants to cater and serve lunch...trying to kill 2 birds with one stone.
Yeah...still doing the research. I haven't decided on a co-packer or renting a kitchen. If I rent a kitchen, I have 100% control and I am the last one to touch the sauce. If anything happens, it's on me. I won't have to make a phone call, try to return the product...blah, blah, blah.

But, with a co-packer...I can have time to do marketing and sales, have more time to take and fill orders...

Ugh, it's a toss up.