Specialty Food Magazine

Spring 2019

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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producer profile to wait for two hours to use the kitchen facilities he was borrowing. He needed space for storage. In 2013, a Kickstarter campaign raised almost $33,000 to help him build a 2,000-square-foot kitchen and warehouse in an industrial part of Santa Barbara. Union Street Makerspace, as it's called, opened in 2015 and today turns out 250 cases of pickles a day. It also serves as an incubator for several other small food brands, helping them get off the ground. Bennett has 12 employees and close to 1,000 stores carry Pacific Pickle Works, primarily west of the Rocky Mountains. The brand has grown to a dozen products, including Carriots of Fire (zingy carrots), Pickles under the Ginf luence (cucumbers brined with gin, rosemary and jalapeños) and Brussizzle Sprouts, which won a sofi Award for 'Best Appetizer' in 2016. Pacific Pickle Works' Michelada Shrub triumphed at the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show's Front Burner Foodservice Pitch Competition. The tart, complex blend of fresh lime juice, organic apple cider vinegar, house-made Worcestershire sauce, chiles, tamarind, and molasses is designed for mixing with beer and pouring over ice. Victoria Ho, a brand consultant for the company since 2015, made the winning pitch presentation. She pointed out the product's versatility as a marinade for chicken, brisket, and baby back ribs, a base for ceviche and a finishing sauce on fish tacos. Hundreds of applications were con- sidered for the foodservice competition, a channel for entrepreneurs to gain recog- nition for innovation, quality, and chef- appeal. Three finalists (the other two represented Mama La's Kitchen Beef Pho Concentrate and Napa Hills Cherry Rosé Vineyard Enriched Water) gave live, five- minute pitches to a panel of judges headed up by Robert Irvine, an English celebrity chef, talk show host, and fitness guru. The prize package included a free ad in Specialty Food Magazine and extensive social media coverage. "The Michelada Shrub is hitting all the emerging trends in a nutshell," Ho says, recounting what she thinks made it stand out. "The drink, basically a beer cocktail, has a cult following in Southern California and goes great with spicy food. It's not just for millennials, but it is millennial-driven, people who are looking for a drink that fits into a health and wellness lifestyle, lower in alcohol and acidic like kombucha, with zero artificial colorings, f lavorings, or sugar. Millennials are very budget-savvy and it's going to cost less than a cocktail made with spirits. You can deck it out with garnishes so it has a high visual impact, put it on your Instagram feed and get a million 'likes.'" Diversifying Offerings More foodservice offerings are in the works for this year, Bennett says. A wide variety of pickles in five-gallon tubs will enter the distribution chain for delis, bars, and restau- rants. More hotels and resorts are stocking Bloody Mary Elixir, providing bartenders with a consistent tool to blend Bloody Marys and creatively dress them up with Pacific Pickle Works green beans and asparagus. During the summer months, the pickled produce continues to be California-grown, but in winter Bennett sources some veg- etables from Mexico out of necessity. No matter where it comes from, most of it is kosher-certified. Bennett, a newlywed, is pretty much out of the kitchen these days, selling his line, going to trade shows, dealing with websites, employees, costs, and profit-mar- gins. Building a business based on quick pickles did not turn out to happen so quick- ly or easily. "What talked me into continuing was the natural growth of the business," he says. "I was wading in, taking one more step. I told myself I wasn't going to do any artificial marketing. I was going to put the pickles on the shelf and see if they sold because they looked good and tasted good. It had to fundamentally work to make a brand and a company out of it. That's what ended up happening and it took on a life of its own." BRADLEY BENNETT Age: 49 Years in specialty food: 8 Favorite food: Fried chicken sandwich—with pickles! Least favorite food: Friseé. It's decoration, not food. Last thing I ate and loved: A gold shot-an uni shooter with a quail egg yolk my wife and I made at home. Delicious! If I weren't in the food business I'd be: An architect or builder-back to my roots before food. One piece of advice I'd give to a new food business: Make sure you love building companies more than you love making food-because that's what you will be doing. If you love making food, become a chef. 50 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com Julie Besonen writes for The New York Times and is a restaurant columnist for nycgo.com.

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