Turning Balloons into gifts makes perfect sense right now… During lockdown celebrations are small and with Halloween, Christmas, and Easter beyond that approaching fast, adding confectionery and drink to your balloon designs would seem to make perfect business sense am I right? Before you rush out and start creating your amazing gift masterpieces that everyone will absolutely want to buy…. read this first… there are a few considerations to make sure you don’t fall foul of the law and end up with a fine or even imprisonment!
When it comes to gift-giving the combination of sweets (candy), drinks, and balloons is bound to be a sure-fire winner to put the biggest smile on someone’s face. People also like the idea of purchasing a delightfully wrapped and presented all-in-one gift. At a time when you may be looking for ways to absorb the loss of orders for balloon decor this can be a great way to inflate your end of year sales… but what do you need to know before you get started?
Check out your local regulations
First up it’s important you check out your local regulations for the sale or resale of food and drink. As with everything rules can vary hugely from one country to another and within states if you are based in the USA. Rules also vary depending on whether you intend to make the candy yourself or simply purchase and include in your design. Here in the UK, we have strict rules regarding this – even if you are only going to include sweets you brought from the local supermarket. Failing to follow these rules can result in HUGE fines and even imprisonment for up to 2 years!
The majority of the information below pertains to the UK and is correct at the time of publishing this blog – as a business owner, it is essential that you do your own local research and make sure you are following the laws and regulations you are governed by locally.
Register as a Food Business
In the UK even if you are only intending to use prepacked purchased sweets you NEED to make sure you register as a Food business 28 days before you intend to start introducing the sale of candy as part of your designs. This is because you are intending to store, handle, and distribute food items. You need to get in touch with your local council and let them know your intention to store and sell food as part of your services. Failing to register is one of the biggest reasons to get a fine here in the UK. In other parts of the world, you should also contact your local authority and find out what you need to do in terms of registering and obtaining licenses.
Resale of Alcohol
Here in the UK and many parts of the world, it is illegal to sell alcohol without a licence to do so. As you need a premises licence as well as a personal licence to sell alcohol here in the UK it is unlikely you will be granted one unless you operate from premises such as a venue with a bar or a shop which can be licenced for the sale of alcohol. Some people have tried to include FREE alcohol or customers own but be careful because the law states that even if alcohol is given free of charge you still need to be covered by the regulations. You can find out more about alcohol regulations here in the UK: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/alcohol-licensing. You can, of course, include non-alcoholic beverages in your gifts or gift cards to purchase alcohol or speciality coffees etc.
Preparing your business for inspection
Talking to lots of other balloon business owners it is obvious that, whether a local authority feels they need to inspect your place of work varies hugely. If you intend to make your own confectionery then you WILL need an inspection. In my local authority, the resale of purchase prepackaged sweets also requires an inspection and I had to arrange this prior to the sale of the sweets. Other people here in the UK have told me that their local authority has said when including prepackaged sweets it’s not necessary to be inspected simply to register, but getting in touch with them will let you know what you need to do.
If you do need an inspection I have included a list below of the key things I was asked for:
These were the requirements I was required to have in my business (I only use prepackaged sweets) but yours may be different. Generally, I have found the food inspectors to be very helpful. They have given me the advice to get compliant and run a professional business with excellent service for my customers and have been very friendly and easy to deal with. Chatting with your local authority will give you the best information as to what you need to do to ensure the area you store and prepare the food is safe and fit for purpose.
Food packaging, labeling, and allergies
When putting sweets inside balloons they should always be in a wrapper to prevent them from being contaminated from the balloon and any powder within. It is also important that the customer receives essential information regarding what ingredients the sweets contain. By law, if the sweet contains 2 or more ingredients including water and additives then all ingredients must be listed in order of weight with the main ingredient listed first. If food products include any of the 14 allergens they must be listed in a bold font making them stand out from the other ingredients. You can find the list of the 14 allergens and more information about their safe handling here: https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/allergen-guidance-for-food-businesses#declaring-the-14-allergens. If you are selling prepacked sweets and you can leave them in their outer packaging you will find that most of the information is there. If you are decanting sweets from a large multi-pack though you need to be careful that you are still providing your customers with a copy of the information when you give them their finished product. You can find more information on food labeling here https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/packaging-and-labelling#the-legislation
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Traceability rules help keep track of food in the supply chain and make it easy to issue withdrawals and recalls of food should they be found unsafe. It also helps protect you as a business owner if a customer should get ill and you can prove the source of the food. You should keep receipts and accurate records of all sweets you purchase. Your records need to be kept up to date and be given to food inspectors if requested.
Having read this blog I am guessing its now very obvious that you need to make sure your business indemnity insurance covers you for the provision of confectionery as part of your services. I know when I first started adding sweets to my products I checked with BAPIA who provide my insurance and they told me that it covered prepackaged sweets and not sweets I made myself at home. This was absolutely fine for my business but I encourage you to check with your insurance provider to ensure you are covered should an issue with a customer arise.
Always offer a candy free option to your products
Finally, I just want to say that if you are offering sweets as part of your products make sure you offer a candy-free option too. Some customers are skeptical of buying food products from people and others may have allergy issues and by not offering a candy-free option you could be missing out on valuable sales because customers prefer not to purchase confectionery within their balloon. You should also be aware that if customers provide their own sweets you are still govern by all the rules regardless of whether you purchased the sweets or the customer did including proof of originality/labeling etc.
Do you offer confectionery as part of your business? If so what tips do you have? Please comment below!
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