Freeze-dried candy is a booming trend right now, no doubt about it. You may have seen the TikTok videos. Or maybe you bought some freeze-dried Skittles from a vendor at a festival, and have experienced the unique changes in taste and texture created by the process.
If you’re now looking for the freeze-dried candy machine that produces these magical treats, and are thinking of buying one yourself, you’re not alone! This also means you’re not alone if you’ve had a bit of sticker shock when looking at the price of a freeze dryer.
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People are spending thousands of dollars, to freeze-dry candy???
Yup. Freeze-dryers are expensive. But believe it or not, the models that are now available to home buyers are the cheap freeze dryers. And they can be an incredible bargain, whether you’re planning to use one for home food preservation, or you have a profitable business in mind!
Why are freeze dryers so expensive?
Freeze dryers are not an appliance that most people have used before. In the past, they were manufactured for use in laboratories (where freeze drying is referred to as “lyophilization”), or were built in huge, industrial sizes for commercial businesses. You could buy freeze-dried food, but you probably didn’t know anyone with a freeze dryer in their kitchen.
The growing number of home buyers with an interest in long-term food preservation and emergency preparedness has led to several models of freeze dryers now being produced for home use. The prices are still high for these home models, but they're much less expensive than commercial freeze dryers.
These home models are smaller than commercial units, and can usually run on your existing electrical circuits. They often have built-in software with on-screen instructions that will lead you step-by-step through the freeze-drying process.
This shift in marketing to home buyers also provides an opportunity for small business owners: you can now get your hands on an affordable freeze dryer that can create profitable products – like freeze-dried candy.
Is a freeze dryer worth the cost?
Freeze dryers can definitely provide value, especially if you use them for either food-cost savings or for making a profit.
Maybe you aren’t sure yet about the idea of running a freeze-dried candy business. If you’ve just begun looking at freeze dryers, it’s possible you’ve never made freeze-dried candy yourself, let alone had a chance to test the market or make any sales.
Can a freeze dryer pay for itself?
Many food entrepreneurs across the country would say the answer to that is YES, as they expand their business and even buy additional machines.
But the full answer to that depends on how you intend to use the freeze dryer.
Home freeze dryers can help you combat rising food prices and save massive amounts of money over time: you can freeze-dry produce, or buy food in bulk and store it for years, without refrigeration and without losing nutritional quality.
If you have a business in mind, like making freeze-dried candy, you'll want take some time to learn about the business, what products sell well, and what your local market looks like.
You will also need to find out what your state laws have to say about this type of business, since it involves food – it could fall under cottage law, where you can run the business from home, or it could mean that you’ll need to make your products in a commercial kitchen.
(Additional regulations will apply if you intend to sell outside of your own state.)
Do you have a business plan?
If you do decide to start a business with your freeze dryer, this research will provide much of the information you will need to build a well organized business plan.
What are your financial goals for the business?
Do you have a timeline in mind for reaching those? An idea of the types and quantity of products you will sell to get you there?
Will you run a full-time business, or will it be more of a part-time side hustle?
Are you hoping to focus solely on making profits that would quickly pay off the machine, or are you also planning to use it for home food preservation? (The freeze dryer can be used for both candy and food, but the process for regular food typically takes much more time.)
Can you save money on the cost of a freeze dryer?
There are a couple of ways to look at this. Do you want to save money up front, or recover the costs after purchase?
Need to save money up front?
Sale prices: You can watch for sales and discounts, even giveaways from some of the major brands. Harvest Right, for example, often has a “$500 off” sale (around Black Friday and again in May, as of this writing – check it out: Harvest Right Spring Sale), and they have an ongoing giveaway on their site.
Other brands may offer “early bird” pricing on new or upcoming models. This could mean waiting for a few weeks before your freeze dryer is delivered, but the discount can be worth it!
Scratch-and-dent: Some brands may offer scratch-and-dent or refurbished units at a discount. You may have to contact them to ask about this option. Make sure you understand what accessories will be included (will it come with a vacuum pump?), and whether you'll have a full warranty.
Buying from a reseller or retail store where you have a discount: Find out if your store discount applies to freeze dryers. (Are you a veteran? Ask the freeze dryer manufacturer about a veteran's discount – StayFresh offers one on their freeze dryers!)
Spending more to save more: Buying a larger size or buying multiple units at a discounted price – yes, this costs more up front, but you'll getting more for the money you're spending. (Okay, fine, maybe we're just playing with ways to justify buying another freeze dryer, here.)
Buying a used freeze dryer
You might even find a used freeze dryer for sale – but be careful here, for a couple of reasons.
One: even a “new, barely used” machine will probably lose any warranty protection once it is sold to a second owner.
Two: unfortunately, there will always be scammers, and unless you know the seller, or have some way of testing the machine before you buy, it could be an expensive mistake to buy a used freeze dryer.
We’re not saying you can't buy used – and if you are active in freeze-drying groups online, you will sometimes find machines for sale from other owners who are upgrading to a larger size, or who are shutting down their business. But be aware and always do your research: have they been actively posting in the group for a long time? Have they had other sales that resulted in good reviews?
Also compare the selling price to what you would pay for a new freeze dryer, especially if you are concerned about having a warranty or company support.
Just remember the adage about something being too good to be true. If it seems like a great deal, look into it! But use caution.
By the way, that $200 machine you found when you searched Amazon
IS NOT A FREEZE DRYER!!!
The seller is only using that name in the product title so they will show up in your search results – it’s a dehydrator, and will not produce freeze-dried candy, sorry!
Recovering the costs: return on investment
Buying a freeze dryer is definitely an investment, but it also has great potential for a return on that investment.
That expense also plays into some advantages for your future business:
The sticker price (along with the fact that most people are unfamiliar with freeze dryers) keeps more people from buying a machine.
Freeze dryers aren’t yet a common kitchen appliance – the demand is growing, but production hasn’t quite caught up, and companies often have backorders on their machines of up to several weeks.
This will change as interest, availability, and shared knowledge increase, but for now, anyone with a freeze dryer automatically has a head start on a freeze-dried candy business.
You’ll need that time to get to know your machine and all of its quirks, learn the time and temperature settings that work for different candies, find your sales avenues and figure out the candies that sell best in your market.
Speaking of unknowns and quirky machines…
What about repairs? Maintenance?
There are always unknowns with any machine, but the best action you can take is to be prepared. Learn as much as you can about the machine you plan to buy. You can often download the owner's manual directly from manufacturing company's website.
Find a repair shop in your area with someone who is willing to work on freeze dryers. This is sometimes easier if you're asking them to work on a specific part that they're familiar with: for example, testing the compressor.
Join online freeze drying groups.
This community has a lot of experience with the machines. You'll learn a lot, and other members will usually have tips and advice on using and maintaining your machine.
Facebook has several active freeze-drying groups; a few are even devoted to candy making:
Keep a couple of repair sites bookmarked!
FixmyFD.com provides replacement parts and is run by some great people who have helped many freeze dryer owners with troubleshooting and repairs.
They also have a Facebook group, Freeze Dryer Repair Support.
You'll want to plan ahead to learn how to keep your machine – and your vacuum pump! – in great condition.
Are there alternatives? Do you need a freeze dryer to “freeze dry” candy?
Technically, no, you don’t! Most “freeze-dried” candies aren't actually being freeze-dried at all. There are other advantages to using a freeze dryer, but if you are ONLY EVER going to make candy, you might want to look at vacuum ovens or other types of vacuum chambers.
Vacuum ovens (another piece of lab equipment!) are another create the dried, puffed texture of freeze-dried candy, by placing the candy under a vacuum. They are typically less expensive than freeze dryers, and sometimes come with with more shelves and more temperature controls. You may still need to buy or build a cold trap, to prevent any extracted moisture from reaching your vacuum pump.
What about a dehydrator?
No, you can't freeze dry candy with a dehydrator. Freeze drying is a different process that does more than simply dry the candy; it places the candy under a vacuum, which cause the candy to expand, creating the “puffed-up” texture that customers are seeking.
So, should you buy a freeze dryer, if you're only making candy?
You may not need a freeze dryer to make freeze-dried candy, but there are many advantages to using one, over other methods. Before you decide to go with another option, consider the additional ways you could use a freeze dryer, and what other business opportunities might be available when you have one!
Other freeze dryer business ideas:
Here are just a few of the types of products you could sell in different categories:
Emergency food supply/emergency preparedness: Freeze-dried foods can be stored for up to 25 years, without refrigeration.
For people: Fruits, vegetables and vegetable snacks (your own brand of veggie chips?).
For pets: Freeze-dried pet foods and treats, for a variety of pets, from cats and dogs to fish, reptiles, and hermit crabs!
Restaurants: Freeze-dried herbs, mushrooms, seasoning mixes
Outdoor life: Food and snacks for campers and hikers
Travel: Meals for full-time RVers or those living the van life. Also: easy to transport meals for those on a restricted diet.
Beverages: Smoothie blends, tea, specialty freeze-dried coffee blends, cocktail and mocktail mixes
Flowers: This involves a process that takes a lot of time and care, but it can be a profitable business.
There are other, more specialized uses for a freeze dryer, and one or more of them may relate to an industry or need that you are familiar with. Look for opportunities!
The freeze dryer is definitely a machine with potential. If you have one, you're in a position to provide products to multiple niche markets.
Use your imagination to come up with other unique items that you could offer!