Thinking of turning a profit from Grandma's destined-to-be-famous cookie recipe? Ready to make a killing in the salsa market?
Slow your roll. Getting a homemade product to market isn't as easy as the sudden influx of local goods makes it seem. Small food producers can spend as much as two years working to get their ducks in a row — between meeting Health Department standards and staying on top of Food and Drug Administration requirements.
Miss Cordelia's Grocery has stepped in to make the transition a little easier — in fact, a lot easier. Just a few months ago, general manager Tony Owen, marketing manager David Thornton, and executive chef Michael Lafferty began work on the Locavore Incubator Program (L.I.P.). By helping chefs and bakers take their products from base recipe, through start-up and brand development, and directly to a retail outlet, L.I.P. hopes to make the process of getting to market as smooth as possible for local entrepreneurs. And the extent of its involvement in the process puts L.I.P. in a class of its own.
"I've been to other incubator kitchens," says Martha Flautt of Martha's Family Favorites. "You just rent the space. You're on your own." Thornton agrees: "I've researched other incubator kitchens across the United States. We offer much more."
For instance, to start her line of diabetic-friendly muffins, cookies, and bars, Flautt needed a commercial kitchen, advice on recipes, help with packaging and branding, the buying power of a large producer to source items in bulk, and a built-in market for her goods. Miss Cordelia's Locavore Incubator Program provides all that. Flautt is even considering marketing the batter for her baked goods, which could then be sold in other bakeries and schools around town.
"Miss Cordelia's has opened their door to me," Flautt says. "Otherwise, I wouldn't be here."
Having a commercial kitchen is not only necessary for large-scale production of food items and in line with health codes, it also allows for quality control. As Flautt explains, one recipe prepared the same way in two separate kitchens might come out differently, depending on the humidity, room temperature, the quality of refrigeration, and other variables. Using one commercial kitchen to do all of the testing, recipe refinement, and final production affords a producer some certainty that he or she is zeroing in on the perfect recipe — and then delivering that to customers.
Miss Cordelia's has been a consistent supporter of local goods. "You can't be a local grocery without local products," Thornton says. The store carries more than 40 local brands, from well-known names like McCarter Coffee to new shoots like Martha's Family Favorites muffins.
Thornton is looking to add five more local culinary entrepreneurs to the incubator. In the meantime, producers who are not able to participate in the Locavore Incubator Program are still welcome to discuss their products with Thornton or other L.I.P. participants.
"I met with someone recently to talk about their beef ravioli," says Thornton, adding that the Health Department restricts homemade meat products from their market. "They can't even sell it here, but we still talked about it."
If you're interested in participating in the Locavore Incubator Program, contact David Thornton at Miss Cordelia's.
Miss Cordelia's Grocery, 737 Harbor Bend (526-4772), misscordelias.com