Specialty Food Magazine


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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Page 78 of 131

brand spotlight Creating the Right Product While learning the business, the entrepreneurs were also working on making the best hard candy. "Finding the right flavors was simply a marathon," Burke says. They tested some 40 flavors, many inspired by Slatkin's own recipes, Burke notes. Combinations ranged from watermelon basil to strawberry with black pepper. "We found an amazing flavor chemist who we worked with, but we came in with strong opinions about what we wanted to create, and Howard and I made the final decisions. We took expert advice but we didn't use focus groups or market testing." Four f lavors debuted at the product line's launch, and the same four f lavors remain today: pink grapefruit and tupelo honey; pomegranate and nectarine; D'anjou pear and cinnamon; and blood "We knew that we wanted to have an organic, good-for-you company," says Burke. "We wanted organic food that tasted great— that was packaged in a way that appealed to our peers and us. We wanted it to be chic and shareable." After experimenting with chocolate, they decided it wasn't right for them. "From childhood I was always a hard-candy freak and it had come back into the picture for me when I wasn't able to eat brownies and cakes," Burke says. "Howard used hard candy to help him lose weight. So it was natural for us. But then the work really began." Pursuing Specialty Food Education and Experts The first step was research, and plenty of it. "We had a full office working here for two years before we launched," Burke explains. The Torie & Howard team assessed their competition, finding out where they were sold and how they were distributed. They attended Fancy Food Shows, where they took courses to learn about the business of specialty food and asked instructors at the education programs to recommend other experts for them to tap. Eventually they hired specialty food consultant Deb Mazzaferro to help them. Early on, Mazzaferro "guided us through creating a business model and product pricing so that we could have enough room in our numbers and margins to support a distributor program. I was adamant about having enough information for me to launch correctly," says Burke, who was going to be running the busi- ness day to day. A year before launch they even brought mockups to the Fancy Food Show to get feedback from brokers and salespeople to gauge potential market response. To help the company get to the next level, they hired Rich Vinchesi as the company's CFO. "Rich is heavily involved in all aspects of the business," since joining more than a year and a half ago, says Burke. His financial and operational expertise gave the company the extra push it need- ed. "By synthesizing our vision and ambition along with the busi- ness' traction to date, he built a financial model and packaged our story for pursuit of growth capital, delivering what investors expect to see in a growth plan. With this in place we know we'll raise the capital needed to reach our goals." TORIE & HOWARD Business Launch: 2012 Winter Fancy Food Show Headquarters: New Milford, CT Product line: four flavors, offered in individual tins, bulk 5-pound bags in assorted and single flavors, "handbag" packaging with assorted flavors, and seasonal packaging Yearly sales: seven figures with rapid growth projected for 2014; sales more than doubled from 2012 to 2013 Employees: 10 Customers: about 3,500 stores Best sellers: "Our rankings are super close. They are all truly neck and neck. One might edge out another one quarter but then it changes." What they would have done differently: "I wish we had hired a national sales manager sooner. He's amazing and has helped tremendously." Advice to new companies: "Every person at a Fancy Food Show is a potential customer of some kind. Some people get so focused on selling to every store that they forget the opportunities they have with everyone walking the show floor." "We wanted organic food that really tasted great—that was packaged in a way that appealed to our peers and us." PHOTO:S TORIE & HOWARD 76 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com brandSpotlight_4_14.indd 76 3/18/14 10:46 AM

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