First time vendors are fun to meet. They are full of excitement and energy as they introduce their products to the public. Putting your hard work out there can be intimidating for the first time. While you want to be noticed by all the people who will buy from you, you want to avoid unwanted attention from people who will cost you money and possibly even your freedom.
Monica and I were at a local popup recently. Even though its really hot here in Houston, we still do these because they can be so much fun. This was no exception.
We met this really cool family who encouraged their mom to share her empanadas with the world. Based on a recipe that had been in the family for generations, she made beef empanadas and sold them at the popup. Along with the empanadas, they had jarred some chimichurri for sale as well. Chimichurri originates in South America and is a blend of olive oil with garlic and spices and is absolutely delicious!
One thing that I noticed was that they had no information on their product labels for their chimichurri. This is a problem and it can become a big problem for them.
I’m sure you have heard stories of kids having their lemonade stands shut down by city officials. I’ve even seen stories of kids being fined for selling lemonade.
Whether you agree with this or not, it is a reality. There are regulations in place to be able to sell things to the public. The regulations were put in place with the best of intentions and public safety in mind.
Why is this important? It is important because you can get in huge trouble for not following these regulations. Even chimichurri needs to be properly labeled according to the regulations for food sales. I am far from an expert on this but I know that it must at least have a list of ingredients so that people with allergies are aware of the contents. It must also have the name of the maker on it. There are probably a lot of other things that need to be on there as well according to the FDA.
This is a huge pain for new vendors and even seasoned vendors. This is one of the many obstacles that vendors must overcome in order to avoid any conflict with the regulatory agencies and government officials. Here in Houston we do see inspectors show up occasionally to ensure that vendors are in regulatory compliance. Not being in compliance could lead to hefty fines and even jail time.
Again, regardless of your opinion on this (I have my opinion), and how angry you get from hearing these stories, it is the reality we live in. Before selling anything at a market, make sure you understand if there are any regulations that you and your product fall under. Understand what needs to be on your labels so that you can minimize or eliminate any undue attention from the regulatory agencies or government officials.
There is a lot of information on the internet about the regulations involved for various types of products. Food regulations are particularly onerous. While the Federal Government may have regulations that apply to what you are selling, local regulations may apply too. And, of course, they may differ from state to state.
Take some time to look up the regulations that may apply to your product. If you don’t get the answers you want, ask other people at a local market. Other vendors are more than happy to help any way they can. A little research can save you a lot of pain and expense later.
On this Sunday we didn’t see any inspectors and these new vendors did not have any issues. We ate empanadas all day and even went home with some chimichurri. It was excellent! I do wish them well and hope that their fledgling business takes off.