Thinking about making the transition in your food business to use a co-packer? Here are the most popular questions we’ve received on this topic. If you’ve thought about working with a co-packer interested in be sure to read The Complete Guide to Profitable Co-Packing.

1. Does co-­packing hurt your company reputation?

I don’t think it does. On one hand, it’s a business decision. It frees you up to grow. On the other hand, customers may want to meet the people who actually ​make​the product. They want to make that personal connection. However, your company will get to a point when you need to give up producing your product. Customers should understand that ­­ as long as your quality stays the same.

2. What if I can’t find a co­packer?

There are some parts of the nation where co­packers simply don’t exist. That’s why many food companies choose to get their products produced several states away. Some NYC companies produce in Vermont. Companies in Florida produce in upstate New York.

If you choose to produce out of state, pay careful attention to the shipping charges you’ll incur to get a pallet of product back to your warehouse. It may end up being far too expensive. In that case, look for a shared kitchen or consider financing a kitchen with a few other food producers.

3. How do you negotiate a better rate with your co-­packer?


Ever gone on a mustard flight?

You have to have the guaranteed volume to be able to secure an annual contract with your co­packer. Many smaller co­packers will take you on a case­by­case basis because they don’t know if and when you may go out of business. With larger, established brands, it’s easier to know if they’ll go out of business or not.

However, you may be able to negotiate a better per unit rate on some flavors if they require less labor or you’re producing more of just that one flavor. I always say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. It’s worth asking your co­packer to see if they’ll work with you. Often times, they won’t want to lose your business.

4. How do I know if a company co­-packs its products?

Look on the label. It will either say “manufactured for” or “distributed by” ­­ these are typically giveaways that the company doesn’t make its own products. You could also just ask, too. A lot more companies are starting to co­pack their products because they need to focus on growing the company.

5. What other service should I look for besides manufacturing?

Full­service co­packers are amazing. Why? Well, because they do everything. But, you’ll pay for it. Look for co­-packers who provide consulting, nutrition facts labels, upcs, and ingredient sourcing (they often know of ingredient sources you’ve never heard of). This way, you’ll be able to get more done at one company and have to split services up.

6. What do you do if co­-packing doesn’t work out?

food storage

Even the best manufacturers can sometimes run out of ingredients.

You can always go back to producing your own products. You’re the best at it anyway, right? Or, you can always meet in the middle and start using shared kitchen.

Remember, though, you won’t be able to have the same flexibility as you had with a co­packer. For many larger companies, it ultimately becomes less expensive to produce products by yourself, using your own production facility.

7. Is there any software to manage everything with my co­packer?

A lot of food producers use pads of paper or Microsoft Excel or Google Docs to help run their business. That can only take so far.

Ask your co-packer what programs or software they use to help manage the day-to-day operations. If the software they use sounds easy to learn, go for it. As you might expect, it will be challenging to get co-packers to switch software providers even if you have a better and easier solution.

8. Do co-­packers help me transition out of my home kitchen?

When you make the transition from your house to another kitchen, there can be a lot of new things. Whether it’s ingredient sources, scaling up, or connections to other producers and retailers, co­packers will help you to a point ­­especially with scaling up your recipes.

While you’ll pay for it, the help is worth it. You co­packers know what they’re doing. They know how to grow food companies, because it’s likely they’ve done it before. Don’t be afraid to ask for help ­ and do it early, too.

9. Is there a reason not to leave your home kitchen?

food pricing structure

Imagine… Your food on store shelves!

Of course there are. Your house is well­known to you, it’s free rent (to an extent), and you have a less expensive state license. But, there comes a time when your home oven only takes you so far. You might need to move to a facility.

However, it can be a costly move. Your supplies increase, your labor increases ­­ everything goes up. So, you have to think about where you want your company to be. Do you want to stay small and in your home or do you want to take your company to the next level?

10. Are there any industry experts to help you co-­pack?

Yes ­ there are tons of consultants out there ­ a simple google search reveals a couple of experts, depending on what you’re looking for. From process controls, to consultants who help you find a co­packer, they’re out there. But, you’ll pay for it. Many consultants charge anywhere between $50­$200/hour. Sometimes, however, the consulting expenses could save you thousands of dollars down the road.

Questions to ask yourself after you visit all of your co-­packers:

food production

Prepare yourself with these questions.

1. Did I get along with the co­-packer?

As I’ve stated earlier, your co­packer is like your significant other. You deal with them almost every day, know their quirks, and their faults. Your co­packer should be just like your best friend. Were they approachable? Did they ask questions about you ­ not them? Did they introduce you

to their employees? I bet you enjoy working with nice people ­ people with integrity. Evaluate how you felt talking to the kitchen manager. If they weren’t the right fit, that’s your first red flag ­­ move on.

2. Were there any warning signs?

What didn’t you like about the kitchen? Were there things the kitchen needed to work on? If there were any warning signs, are they able to be worked through with you or the co­packer? You have to be able to start off on the right foot. Otherwise, it won’t be a great relationship.

3. Can I grow with this company?

mustard on display

Promoting at a local farmer’s market.

As noted by the need for lots of storage, the co­packers needs to have the ability to grow with you. Otherwise, you’ll be looking for a new co­packer in a short period of time. That’s something we’ll talk about later, too. With any company that gets started, you expect to grow. Find a co­packer who is willing to grow with you.

4. Are they able to produce anything else besides my type of product?

This is thinking ahead a little bit, but does the co­packer have the ability to produce anything else? Just because you make spaghetti sauce, doesn’t mean you won’t start making seasoning mixes, garlic bread, and pizza sauce. Having a co­packer with a diverse product mix means it’s easier for you to expand your product line.

5. Are the costs associated reasonable to produce my product?

When you tour a co­packing facility, you’ll likely go over all of the costs associated with co­packing (and there are a lot). What it comes to is can you afford it? You may have stumbled on the best facility in a 200­mile radius, but do you have enough cash in the bank to do a run? As you’ll learn later, when I started out, I almost ran my bank account to $0 ­­and it was frightening.

Now that we’re on the topic money, it’s time to get down to numbers. The costs of co-­packing can either be straight­forward or complex. I’ve dealth with both. And the hard part is every co-­packer is different.

Co-­Packer Decision Guide

Here’s a worksheet to take with you to different co­packers and fill out when you’re on the phone or researching different kitchens. Print one out for each co­packer you visit.

Name of Kitchen:
Visit Date: ___/___/___



  • Was everything stored on pallets?
  • Was the kitchen clean?
  • Did you find lot­ tracking and HACCP documents?
  • Was the equipment updated?
  • Was there enough storage for your things? ​
  • Did you get along well with the co­packer?
  • What was the pricing structure?

Final thoughts & comments:

Want to start your own food business?

Hey! 👋I’m Brett Lindenberg, the founder of Food Truck Empire.

We interview successful founders and share the stories behind their food trucks, restaurants, food and beverage brands. By sharing these stories, I want to help others get started.

If you liked this story, sign up for our newsletter that includes our food business startup kit and most popular interviews sent straight to your inbox.

Know someone interesting that should be interviewed on the website? Tell us about them here.