Setting Up a Compliant Food Manufacturing Facility in California

Author Elena Mialik Read bio
Date: September 28, 2023

From the bustling avenues of San Francisco to the sun-soaked vineyards of Napa Valley, California is renowned for its rich culinary heritage and innovation in the food sector. However, as vibraant as the Golden State’s food industry might be, establishing a compliant food manufacturing facility in this region presents its own set of intricate challenges.

Having navigated the life sciences sector and the distinct world of food manufacturing real estate for years, I’ve gained invaluable insights into the dance of compliance, efficiency, and innovation that goes into creating a successful food manufacturing hub in California. The layers of federal, state, and local regulations can be daunting, but with the right guidance, the path becomes clear and achievable.

In this guide, I aim to draw from my experience as a commercial real estate broker to shed light on the complexities of setting up a food manufacturing facility that meets and exceeds California’s rigorous standards. From understanding the regulatory maze to designing a facility that balances aesthetics with functionality, we’ll embark on a journey that merges the art of real estate with the science of food manufacturing.

Understanding California’s Unique Regulatory Landscape

  • Federal vs. State Regulations: California doesn’t only follow the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines but also has its own sets of rules to ensure the highest standards of food safety.
  • The Role of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH): This entity oversees the licensing and inspection of certain food products and establishments. Understanding its role will be crucial for any food manufacturing facility in the state.
  • Local County and City Regulations: Apart from statewide regulations, each county or city in California might have additional rules and requirements for food manufacturing facilities. Being cognizant of these localized rules is essential for smooth operations.

Key Infrastructure Considerations

  • Site Selection: Factors like proximity to raw materials, distribution networks, and the local talent pool can influence the success of your facility.
  • Facility Design and Layout: The layout should promote efficient workflow and adhere to safety standards. Considerations like ample space for equipment, storage, and employee movement are vital.
  • Hood and Ventilation Systems: Proper ventilation is not just a matter of compliance but also plays a pivotal role in ensuring product quality and employee safety.

Food manufacturing facility

Critical Compliance Components for Food Manufacturing in California

  • FDA-Approved Facilities: Meeting FDA’s stringent requirements ensures the highest standards of food safety and quality for consumers.
  • Equipment Standards and Maintenance: Regular upkeep and ensuring that equipment meets California’s rigorous standards is essential to avoid any operational hiccups.
  • Waste Management and Environmental Considerations: California is particularly stringent about environmental standards. A proper waste management system not only ensures compliance but also contributes to sustainable operations.

The Role of a Commercial Real Estate Broker in Your Journey

  • Deep Understanding of the Market Landscape: A seasoned commercial real estate broker, especially one who specializes in food manufacturing, brings a wealth of knowledge about available properties, historical data, and current market trends. Their insights can help businesses understand the best locations for their specific needs, anticipate potential challenges, and leverage opportunities.
  • Site Selection and Due Diligence: A broker’s expertise extends beyond just identifying potential sites. They ensure thorough due diligence – assessing the physical condition of properties, evaluating the potential for expansion or upgrades, and ensuring that the location aligns with the manufacturer’s logistical and distribution needs.
  • Navigating Zoning and Land Use Challenges: With intricate zoning laws in California, it’s essential to ensure a property is zoned for food manufacturing. Brokers with experience in this sector can help clients understand local zoning ordinances, potential land use restrictions, and even navigate the process of obtaining necessary permits and variances.
  • Negotiating Terms Favorable to Your Business: The negotiation process can be intricate, involving multiple facets from price to terms of use. An experienced broker can help in securing favorable lease or purchase terms, ensuring that your business’s bottom line is protected.
  • Post-Deal Support and Future Planning: The role of a commercial real estate broker doesn’t end with the closure of a deal. They often provide post-deal support, helping businesses integrate into their new space and planning for future expansion needs. Whether it’s renegotiating lease terms, scouting for additional properties, or offering insights into market shifts, a dedicated broker is a long-term partner in your venture’s success.


Setting up a compliant food manufacturing facility in California is undoubtedly a challenging endeavor, but with the right knowledge, resources, and guidance, it’s a rewarding journey that leads to success. 

Whether you’re starting fresh or scaling up, understanding the California landscape and tapping into the expertise of seasoned professionals can make all the difference.