Our aim is to help start or expand Virginia food businesses by assisting with the navigation of the regulations and requirements of creating value-added food products. Much of our work is focused on the Prince Edward County Cannery & Commercial Kitchen where we promote commercial food production. We also speak at conferences, offer consultation to like-minded organizations, and work one on one with entrepreneurs and farmers.
Many food producers and growers have never had the opportunity to work with the commercial equipment available at the facility so we offer advice and supervision as needed. Our certified staff is available to explain the following:
- Sanitation guidelines
- Food processing regulations
- Proper use of the Cannery’s equipment
Other assistance includes:
- Consultation on product development
- Providing a checklist of necessary steps required to process foods commercially
- Connecting clients with Small Business Development services
- Training courses on food processing regulations
- Converting existing recipes into Process Approval applications
- Scaling recipes for bulk production
- Testing of product pH
- Sourcing of raw ingredients (we prefer locally grown)
- Container selection and label development
- Recommending sales markets for final product
For information on personal (non-commercial) use of the cannery, visit the Prince Edward County Cannery page.
Note that there are 2 different ways to use the cannery!
Option 1 : You can rent the entire facility by the hour, make your food product and just pay for the time that you are there. You are in charge of your own production, supplies, and planning.
Option 2: You can hire our staff to make your food product for you. This is called co-packing and Virginia Food Works is responsible for production. This is an ideal option for a farmer who wants to drop off excess strawberries for us to make her an amazing spicy strawberry jam.
Starting Your Business
The following is a basic list of some of the necessary steps when creating a value-added food product. Virginia Food Works provides advice and education on each of these steps. Contact us for detailed information on the following:
1. Develop a business plan.
2. Finalize your recipe.
- Virginia Food Works may have a recipe you can use, or you could adapt a personal recipe.
- Taste test and get feedback!
- Test pH of product.
- Make sure that scaling & bottling does not adversely affect flavor or texture.
3. Schedule a tour and/or test batch at the Cannery.
4. Contact a Process Authority with your recipe and product samples. You will need:
- Ingredient list & quantities/weights.
- Process flow (list of steps).
- Two samples required for application.
5. Design a product label.
6. Register your business if you have not already done so.
7. Acquire product liability insurance.
8. Submit registration form (with Process Approval, label, etc.) to Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS).
9. If applicable, submit recipe and Process Approval to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Option 1: Commercial Kitchen
If you are ready to process your approved food product for retail sale and need an inspected kitchen, we can help! The cannery offers efficiency for larger scale production and easy clean-up (just spray everything down at the end!). The large-volume steam kettles, filling machine, scales and label applicator speed up production, making the drive to Farmville worthwhile. Here you can process acid or acidified foods for resale though you can not process meats. Virginia Food Works’ staff is ready to walk you through food regulations, sanitation guidelines, and use of the equipment. Your rental of the kitchen can also include pH testing, recipe test batching, metered filling of containers, automated label application, and more.
A selection of pre-approved recipes are available. See below for a listing. These recipes have been tested by a food scientist and are ready for production.
See the Equipment page for more information about the commercial equipment available.
Pricing details for the use of the commercial kitchen can be found here.
Option 2: Co-Packing
We are a full service co-packer ready to process your food from start to finish. We work directly with Virginia growers and prospective food entrepreneurs to create commercial foods for retail sale. Existing food entrepreneurs can use us to expand their product lines or increase their output.
If your schedule prevents you from taking the time to process your own product at the Prince Edward Cannery and Commercial Kitchen, or you just want to have a great food product without all of the manufacturing stress, we are available to help. Virginia Food Works provides contract packing, or co-packing, of food products for a fee. Drop off your produce to us and we will return it processed, labeled and ready to go to market!
Many farmers are more interested in having their excess or “ugly” fruit processed into a sellable product than developing an original recipe. These clients often take advantage of our pre-approved recipes as well as our label template. Our pre-approved recipes include:
- Applesauce (plain and flavored)
- Fruit jams, jellies and preserves (plain and flavored)
- Fruit vinaigrette
- Mushroom garlic vinaigrette
- Fruit syrups or toppings (plain and flavored)
- Pasta and marinara sauce
- Tomato Soup
- Pepper Jelly
- Wine Jelly
- Peaches in Syrup
For information on our co-packing rates, click here.
Packaging & Labeling
Clients may bring their own new stock jars to use for processing or they may take advantage of the stock available through Virginia Food Works. Currently, 9 oz, 12 oz, and 24 oz glass jars and corresponding lids are available for purchase at the Cannery. If you would like a particular size or shape jar, Virginia Food Works can assist in identifying prospective suppliers for you.
Virginia Food Works can provide referrals and assistance with developing product labels, including Nutrition Facts, UPC codes, batch codes, and FDA label requirements. We have a Primera AP362 Label Applicator available to apply labels to round jars that do not have raised lettering on the surface.
In order to facilitate entry into the value-added foods market, Virginia Food Works offers pre-designed label templates that meet commercial requirements. If you don’t have the time or money to spend on designing your own label or want to fast track your product to the marketplace, the template is a great option. We are happy to recommend graphic designers to assist in editing in information specific to your business and to help clients who wish to develop their own branding and label style; contact us for more information.
If you have a surplus of produce during the season with no time to process it, you can rent freezer storage at the Cannery. This gives producers a chance to expand their market by preserving that excess produce until a more convenient time. Virginia Food Works offers access to both refrigerated and frozen storage. Short and long term storage is available and rental rates apply according to the racking space occupied.
For any inquiries, contact us at info@VirginiaFoodWorks.org