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What type of licenses and permits will I need?

Below are general guidelines.

  1. Apply for a state license as a transient food vendor. You can locate your state’s Sales TaxDepartment by visiting the Federation of Tax Administrators at There is a small fee ($10-$25). This vendor’s license will enable you to purchase your food products and any products used to clean your equipment tax-free at Wholesale Food Distribution Centers (Sam’s Club, Costco, etc). As for charging sales tax, most states do not consider kettlecorn a taxable food.
  2. You will need to apply for a Mobile or Temporary Food Service License. Mobile Food Service establishments are generally licensed by your local/county Health Department. The Department will provide you with applicable rules/regulations, forms, etc. There is a fee, ($15 – $200+, depends on your location) and you will need to renew your license annually. A physical inspection may be required before the permit is issued. In some states, your county of residence can issue a state-wide permit. Or, you can just get a license (per event) from the county you’ll be popping in.
  3. Sometimes you’ll be required to get a “vendor” or “peddler” license if you’re selling within city limits. Event co-ordinators should be able to confirm if this is necessary.
  4. You’ll need liability insurance – shop around with your local insurance providers for the best rates. Generally, you’ll need 1 million dollars liability coverage. Most people also add coverage for their equipment, in case of theft or storm damage, etc. When you call for rates, simply say you need insurance as a food vendor – that’s your classification. Sometimes when you mention “kettle corn,” they’re not sure how to classify your business. Your insurance provider should be able to answer any questions and guide you in the process. Some use Wells Fargo Business Insurance, others have had good luck with The Hartford. Annual prices range from $300 – $1,200.
  5. Do you have a name picked out for your kettle corn business? By registering your trade name, you’ll have exclusive rights to its use. There is an initial filing fee. (approx. $20) Contact your Secretary of State for more information and forms. Most states provide the necessary forms on their web site. Of course, this is optional.

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