So now you have your recipe all set, have made it a few times as sample batches, and you’re ready to scale up to produce a production run that you can start selling. Believe it or not it is not that easy to find a bottler (referred to as a “co-packer”) on the internet. It doesn’t seem like they advertise all that much, don’t have discoverable web sites, or have multiple business lines and bottling is just a side thing for them.
I found that the best way to find one was to go to a local hot sauce festival (or even a farmer’s market, Saturday morning market – you get the picture) and ask around. Turned out that many of the vendors used the same bottler. The bottler also had his own line of sauces and was at the show, so I got to meet him in person and talk about bottling my product.
I did, however, find a few other options that are national in nature. These co-packers have large minimums and often charge an R&D fee ($600 per product was a quote that I got from one of them). This is tough when you are small and just getting started. They are more geared towards the large brands that want pallets of stuff at a time shipped to multiple warehouse locatoins.
Finding a small local guy is the way to go. No R&D fees, close by, smaller minimums means that you can turn inventory faster which keeps your product fresher. Also staying local cuts down on your overall costs because you will not have to have the product shipped to your storage location. Glass bottles full of hot sauce are heavy and are expensive to ship.
So the best advice I have is to ask around locally when you see a local product that has been bottled for commercial sale.
As an alternative, you can package your own product. You will need to rent a commercial kitchen that has been approved and inspected by the FDA for this to be entirely legal. I did not go this route for the following reasons:
- I do not have the connections to get bulk products at wholesale prices (veggies and other stuff).
- Bottling a large batch of sauce is very time consuming. I still have a full-time job and didn’t want to spend an entire weekend in a kitchen making sauce.
- Bottling it yourself means you assume all of the liability if you make someone sick with your product.
Once you find a bottler you will work with them to get a price per bottle, minimum batch run, and need to pay him about half of the total to get started. He should also be able to run the nutritional information you will need for your label. He will likely charge you for this since he had to buy the software that provides this information (mine charges $75 per product).
You’ll need labels for your bottles…I’ll post about that next.