During the tech boom Silicon Valley, universities and metropolitan cities around the country developed business incubators as a means to help new business startups fuel new ideas, access resources and staffing, and reduce startup investments. In fact, the National Business Incubation Association reports that business incubators help successfully launch over 87% of their firms and approximately 84% of those firms continue to thrive in their local community’s years after introduction.

Today, the food industry is applying the same idea utilizing culinary incubators and shared kitchens. With high costs for startup including space rental, build outs, equipment, food safety certifications, maintenance and more, small business entrepreneurs can find it daunting to procure the capital needed to launch a new food product or business.

Today’s food incubators are not just commercial kitchens, they are also food manufacturing centers home to catering businesses, food trucks and food product startups. Incubators are meant to bring businesses together to utilize shared resources and economies of scale, but they also provide the human support of community and networking that is so critical to startups.

Like business incubators, food incubators have many forms and specializations. Some food incubators are owned by other food businesses, some are owned by entrepreneurs, some are owned by communities and others yet are owned by non-profits like Detroit’s Hopeful Harvest which is owned and managed by Forgotten Harvest Food Rescue Mission.

What started as a small side business to process and co-pack excess food from Forgotten Harvest and their 115 acre farm, has grown into a full-scale business that provides not only on-the-job training for many people, but also a much needed service and economic growth. Like many food incubators, Hopeful Harvest is a full-service manufacturing and support facility that includes processing, manufacturing, bottling and packaging for fresh refrigerated, frozen and dry storage products. The facility also includes sourcing, labeling and marketing services and has 10 employees supporting more than 30 food businesses.

Other food incubators around the country offer similar services and many include additional services like culinary development as well as R&D labs.

We believe food incubators are proof that the food economy continues to be filled with inspiring new ideas and the trend that shared economies promote collaborative business.

Written by Melinda Goodman
Managing Partner

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