Finding a reputable co-packer that you trust is probably the most difficult part of the food production process. As you’ll soon discover, you can’t work with just any co-­packer.

They have to have the right equipment, be priced right, and you have actually like the people who make your product. Sounds stupid, but believe me, being friends with your co­-packer pays in spades when you’re in a jam.

The search to find the perfect co­-packer is a long, detailed process. It’s near impossible to even know​ the companies that co­pack in your area. Sure, you could do a quick Google search, but often times co­packing companies are hiding in the weeds (plus, they’re not exactly pros at search engine optimization). That’s why I’ve got a few ideas to help you find your co-­packer inside this post. Download The Complete Guide to Profitable Co-Packing here.

Table of Contents

Three Ways to Find a Co­-Packer in Your Area:

As I said above, finding a co­packer isn’t as simple as a Google search. The two co­packers I’ve used have both been found by word of mouth. Yes ­ it still works! Here are a couple avenues you can take to start making a list.

food co packer

Finding a co-packer for your food business isn’t always easy.

1. Ask other food producers

This is how I found my co­packers. I simply struck up a conversation with other food producers, either at events or farmer’s markets. It’s not like it’s a secret or anything. Food producers will tell you where their product is made. After all, it gets them in good graces with their kitchen manager.

But, there’s a right way to approach this. Don’t just walk up to a producer and ask “Where is your product made?” ­­ that’s like walking up to a girl in the bar and kissing her before saying hello (Ok, maybe not, but you get the idea).

Engage in conversation. A​sk them about their process, when they started, their favorite flavor, what they’ve learned in the industry. Get to know them for a little bit. Then, when you feel you have a certain level of trust, ask about referrals (not only about co-­packing, but ingredient suppliers, packaging suppliers, etc).

Related Reading: Download My Food Business Model Canvas with Template

This helps the other producer feel comfortable. Plus, they may actually produce in their own kitchen. And, they may not have considered co­packing for other people as another revenue source. It’s not ideal because it takes away from their time to market their company, but it could be an avenue to larger equipment to meet demand and then phase over to co-­packing product.

If they do use a co­-packer, you’re in luck!

Many food producers speak highly of their co-­packer and happy to refer you. Why would they do that? They might get a referral bonus! With my second co-­packer, the hot sauce vendor who referred me got a couple free cleanings (Yep, he makes the kitchen quite messy).

How to make the co­-pack referral work for you:

  1. Ask for their company information (or just take a business card)
  2. Ask for the co­-packers information
  3. Get a general idea of how they operate. That way, you already have questions.
  4. Follow up that day or the following day ­ post three sticky notes if you need to. ­ Don’t forget!
  5. Follow up again if you don’t hear back within 3­5 business days. (Yes, seriously)

Further in the guide, you’ll learn how to handle the first co-­packer meeting and what questions to ask. For now, we’re still trying to find you a co-­packer. Let’s make that job one (or, if you want to, speed ahead to the section about visiting co­packers for the first time).

Let’s explore the next way to find a co­-packer: industry websites.

2. Look on food industry websites

canning jelly

The search for a partner continues.

There are numerous industry websites to find a co-­packer (and learn a TON about running and growing your food business). Here are a few links to industry sites with multiple conversations on finding a co­packer.

  1. C​ornell School of Food Science
  3. N​ebraska Food Processing Institute
  4. N​C State University Food Science Extension

These may not be in your location, but many of these sites have forums you can post on to find a co­packer closer to you. Regardless, bookmark these sites so you can refer back to them. They provide a great avenue for you to meet other food producers and ask questions about starting, running, and growing your business.

If all else fails you can also conduct searches on Google for phrases like “copacker near me” or “copacker town name.” These results will give you another opportunity to find a match.

3. Contact your state agriculture department


Contact your state’s agricultural website for more support.

You’ll notice a couple of those links above are links to state agriculture departments that have specific food processing programs. These are goldmines of information. The team of employees at the state level know almost everything there is to know about food business ­­ including finding a co­-packer. They’ll be glad to help you out.

Here are a few links to the most popular state agriculture departments:

Ask for the person who works with small food producers. They’ll know exactly what you’re going through and give you the resources to build your food business ­not just help you find a co-­packer.

What if you can’t find your department of agriculture or they’re low on available resources?

Your next best bet is to work with the small business administration.

There are local chapters all over the place, plus the counseling is 100% free. Here’s