While a swath of food businesses closed as a result of COVID, more cottage food businesses started in 2020 than any other year, and the statistics aren't even close.
"Cottage food" is a blanket term describing certain types of food products, generally homemade, produced, and sold locally by individuals or families. There are several contributing factors to this industry's recent growth, most germinating from the global pandemic. For one, many Americans have been sidelined from their regular careers, forcing families to find creative ways to earn a living; the revenue, however small, generated from selling homemade food products can make all the difference. For another, quarantined individuals turn to hobbies and activities that provide a sense of personal value; recurrent studies show that cooking reduces stress for many people. Indeed, there is a noticeable correlation between economic downturns and an increase in cottage food businesses, a parallel that spurred a number of states to amend or improve their cottage food laws following the Great Recession of the late 2000s.1
There are particular definitions for what constitutes a "cottage food" product, though most laws tend to agree that it is food that does not require refrigeration — baked goods, jams and jellies, and dried food products are common examples of cottage food — and is sold primarily to other individuals locally (i.e. inside the state). Some states include limits on total revenue in the definition of cottage food as well.2