11 Reasons to Start a Food Business in RI

Starting a food business (or any small business) is a challenging endeavor, and never without risk. But there’s never been a better time to start a food business in Rhode Island. With great food, great culture, and industry-specific support and resources, the Ocean State is committed to — and primed for — innovation and expansion in the food industry. Here are 11 reasons why you should start a food business in RI now.

1. RI has a food czar

In May 2016, Rhode Island created a state-level Director of Food Strategy position, who will help craft food system policy from farm to table (and beyond). This will augment and continue the already-unprecedented level of collaboration around the state for designing clear, consistent policies that pave the way for ease of doing business and supporting quality products. The collaboration continues at the first ever Rhode Island Food System Summit on Jan. 17 at URI.

2. Johnson and Wales University College of Culinary Arts

Providence is home to a globally recognized culinary program that brings talent, interest, awareness, and funding to the region. They graduate not just chefs, but food scientists and food managers. JWU even offers a concentration in Food Entrepreneurship.

3. Legal Food Hub

A program that offers free legal services to farms, aquaculture operations and small food businesses is expanding to Rhode Island. The Legal Food Hub is a project of the Conservation Law Foundation. The program will reduce the legal burden on food startups and existing food businesses that want to expand or pivot.

4. Good press

Rhode Island’s local and regional media celebrates food, and spends a lot of ink covering it. Outlets including RI Monthly, Edible Rhody, Providence Journal, Eat Drink RI, Providence Business News, and others provide wide and deep coverage about the food industry, local players, newcomers, innovation, and food celebrations and events.

5. Food incubators

In just its first year of operation, Hope & Main, the Ocean State’s first food incubator, successfully launched 50 food businesses, created 75 jobs, and poured over a million dollars into the Rhode Island economy. Located in Warren, RI, the non-profit won a 2016 Providence Business News innovation award. Hope & Main’s incubation program provides kitchen space and technical support to budding food entrepreneurs and established food businesses. Two new food incubators are in the works, in Woonsocket and Providence, to shepherd entrepreneurial food ideas from first batch to market. Farm Fresh RI’s Open Kitchen project also aims to “bring transparency to the process of producing value-added foods in Rhode Island.”

6. Farmer’s markets

There are dozens of farmer’s markets across the state, providing new food businesses with ample opportunity to bring their products to market and get valuable feedback. Farm Fresh RI runs many of their own markets and has the most comprehensive list of all farmers markets statewide.

7. Close proximity

Rhode Island’s size makes it a haven for entrepreneurs. Our small state provides easy access to almost everything you need from the farmers/producers to incubators, suppliers, markets, and restaurants. Proximity increases synergy and connections to create a tight and connected food community.

8. RI leads the nation for quality and infrastructure

In a recent ranking of America’s best cities for foodies, Travel + Leisure ranked Providence #2 for having a deep bench of stellar restaurants, legendary street food, and a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere to enjoy food as an experience. Country Health Rankings, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program, commended local food hub Farm Fresh Rhode Island for their strong infrastructure helping local farmers share resources, connect with consumers, and distribute their products while educating customers about their food.

9. Amazing restaurants

Home to numerous remarkable and recognized restaurants and establishments in almost every category, highlighting and catering to a culture with high food awareness and sensibility. Check out Movoto’s list of 15 restaurants throughout the state that will “blow your mind,” and Zagat’s compilation of Providence’s best offerings in every category.

10. Retail distribution

Rhode Island is home to numerous local and national gourmet grocery chains keen to feature and promote locally made products. Whole Foods, Dave’s Marketplace, and Clements’ Marketplace all have stores in Rhode Island.

11. Food Export Northeast

This nonprofit industry organization offers counsel, conducts trade missions, and delivers training to food companies in Rhode Island and the Northeast interested in selling their products internationally. 


At the RISBDC, we have been providing assistance to existing and startup food business owners since 1983. We have the experience and knowledge to help these unique businesses succeed. Contact us today.