TikTok added new language to its product policies earlier this month for its recently launched e-commerce platform, TikTok Shop, excluding merchants who sell homemade food products like candy.
The company prohibits “all homemade food products, including but not limited to freeze-dried candy, chamoy candy, crystal candy or home-cooked foods, and more,” as stated in its political article dated September 13. products that violated the policy, according to an enforcement notification a seller received Thursday and which was viewed by Insider.
A TikTok spokesperson said the company was not changing its policy but rather adding more specific language prohibiting the sale of homemade food products. He said he added details earlier this month.
This policy has an immediate impact on small business owners who now rely on TikTok Shop as a tool to drive sales of products they make at home.
“A lot of small businesses have gone from hundreds of sales a day to zero sales overnight,” said Chrystian Linares, a Florida-based TikTok Shop merchant who sells freeze-dried Skittles on the app.
Linares, who previously worked as a truck driver traveling about 500 miles a day between Orlando and Tallahassee, started selling candy on TikTok Shop about six weeks ago when he discovered he could make money by dehydrating and reselling Skittles purchased on wholesale sites like BJ’s.
Linares has made more than 1,400 sales through TikTok Shop in the past month, according to documentation seen by Insider. Over the past few days, he started receiving takedown notifications from TikTok stating that his store had violated its policies.
The rule probably means it’s game over for Linares’ upstart candy, called Alinby.
“To me, that means we’re going to go bankrupt,” he said. “I don’t know if I should start cutting my losses and then use the money earned so far in other projects, or continue doing what I’m doing, just start focusing more locally rather than online. But it won’t be the same.”
Freeze-dried candy has become a massive category and big business on TikTok Shop. Hashtags like #freezedried and #freezedriedtreats have been viewed over a billion times on TikTok videos. Influencers regularly film videos of themselves snacking on freeze-dried products as they attempt to earn commission on sales through the app’s affiliate program. Users have already purchased thousands of freeze-dried products through TikTok Shop, according to sales figures visible to users in the app.
Nathan Wilkerson, who sells freeze-dried candy under the Tip Top Treats brand, has seen all items suspended from his TikTok store in recent days. He said he plans to appeal the decision.
“TikTok Shop can really give and can really take away”
This isn’t the first time Wilkerson’s store has been pinged by TikTok Shop. After shoppers posted negative reviews about the Jolly Ranchers and Nerds freeze-dried products it was selling that had arrived crushed due to a shipping problem, the company reduced its daily order allowance.
Wilkerson removed the products from his storefront, but the bad reviews persisted.
“TikTok Shop can really give and can really take away,” Wilkerson said.
Yet the app has transformed the 25-year-old entrepreneur.
“I always dreamed of starting my own business,” said Wilkerson, who is based in Portland, Oregon. “I thought I was going to have to grind it out for years. But with the introduction of the TikTok Shop, man, my life changed.”
TikTok Shop first launched in the United States to a limited number of users and merchants in November. It rolled out the product to the rest of its US users last week. The company has attempted to boost business on its e-commerce platform by offer shipping deals and other subsidies to sellers And pay cash bonuses to influencers who join its affiliate program. E-commerce has been a huge source of revenue for its parent company ByteDance, which operates a similar short-video app in China called Douyin.
The company tries to sell many different types of products on TikTok Shop, including second-hand luxury goods like handbags and collectibles like sneakers. According to its policies, all “pre-owned, second-hand, and open-box products are prohibited on TikTok Shop” unless approved for sale under its “handbags and thrift categories.” pre-owned luxury collection by invitation only.”
Aside from homemade products, other banned foods include perishable products, recycled retail candy and infant formula.
September 18, 2023, 5:45 pm EST: This story has been updated with clarifying language.