Friday, April 13, 2012

Restaurateurs, food entrepreneurs seek shelf space

Take a walk through any grocery store these days and you may notice that the shelves are lined with products created by a restaurant chef or food entrepreneur. Particularly in the salad dressing and seasoning aisles, familiar faces like Zea Rotisserie & Grill, Slap Ya Mama, Ms. Sally’s Praline Sauce and others are becoming more commonplace.

Sal & Judy’s Restaurant in Lacombe has been turning out their salad dressings for nearly 15 years.
“I started with tomato sauce, then dressings and moved on to BBQ sauce,” said owner Sal Impastato. “Our products are available in the Gulf Coast Region through Rouses Supermarkets and Wal-Mart primarily. Demand has increased so much we bought a new and bigger location to ramp up production.”

How does one go about taking their recipe, producing, packaging and distributing it? A Louisiana Restaurant Association member—EdibleEnterprises—is designed to do just that. If you are an aspiring food entrepreneur looking to make your homemade specialty for the masses, this Norco-based facility can meet your needs.
“Currently we have 23 tenants and operate seven days a week,” said Gaye Morrison Sandoz, Marketing Director of Edible Enterprises. “We are the only incubator in the state and every month we bring on more tenants.”

Now one of the largest and fastest growing food technology incubators in the country, they are opening the door of opportunity for local chefs and cooks to prepare their unique foods in the government-approved commercial kitchen. Edible Enterprises also offer production, packaging, distribution and marketing consultation.

Zea Rotisserie & Grill also launched products following a successful restaurant concept. Their Thai Rib Sauce and Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette were a big hit with diners and so popular that diners bought it straight from the restaurant’s kitchen.
“We started selling the Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette out of the restaurant in deli containers,” said owner Greg Reggio. “We were selling so much of it that I called a friend of mine to bottle it and began shipping him 100 gallons of the vinaigrette at a time.”
As time went on, the demand became too much to just sell it out of the restaurant. Reggio soon had a contract with local grocery stores. Reggio attributes his products’ popularity to its consistency between the restaurants and the stores and the familiarity with the Zea brand.

“Don’t expect to get rich on a store sold product line,” added Reggio. “It’s double the cost for the same product you make in the restaurant, but the best thing about it is the brand is in people’s home. When they open the cabinet, Zea is right there.”
The Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) is currently seeking participants for a federally-funded program called Ready Supplier. Federal, state and local governments are continually organizing highly focused export events to directly put U.S. sellers and potential foreign buyers in direct contact.
“Foreign demand for Louisiana products is strong,” said Dianne Scalfani, LSBDC Restaurant Specialist. “Advancements in e-commerce and logistics have lowered the costs of doing business overseas. Ready Supplier is a great asset for anyone looking to sell their products.”

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