Demand for AgCenter food incubator keeps growing

Linda F. Benedict, Sandoz, Gaye

News Release Distributed 07/26/13

BATON ROUGE, La. – The LSU AgCenter Food Incubator has turned out to be more popular than expected when it was first established in December 2012.

Already, 19 clients are taking advantage of the incubator’s services, even though the processing kitchen facilities in Ingram Hall on campus won’t be open until Aug. 1.

These clients include makers of candies, salad dressings, dips, barbecue sauces, crawfish macaroni and cheese, and hummus – a product made by Ruth’s Recipes. This Baton Rouge company, on July 22, was the first company to sign a tenant lease with the food incubator.

The companies work with Gaye Sandoz, incubator coordinator. She first directs them to AgCenter food scientists for help with formulations and processing plans so their products are shelf-stable and safe. Clients can then get the proper state permits to begin selling food.

“We’re starting with a smaller kitchen, and then we’ll open a larger kitchen,” Sandoz said. “We’ll be able to accommodate about 30 clients at first.”

On Sept. 26, Sandoz will take on a new group of 10 to 12 prospective food businesses to get them ready for quantity production.

“There is tremendous interest in the Baton Rouge area. Our ready access to food scientists and the resources of the LSU AgCenter help,” Sandoz said.

Luis Espinoza, a new Ph.D. from the food science program, who started working for the incubator on July 15, will be the manager for the commercial kitchens. Among his many responsibilities will be scheduling use of the kitchens.

“He will assist tenants with formulations, bottling and processing procedures, and recall plans as required by the FDA,” Sandoz said. “He’s an incredible asset to the food incubator.”

Sandoz said some clients will need to work in the kitchen one or two times a week, others once a month – depending on their product. The food incubator facilities will provide bottling equipment, which will save clients time and labor costs in preparing their products for sale.

“They won’t have to do this by hand, which will be tremendously helpful,” Sandoz said.

The kitchen will also offer storage facilities, including cold storage.

One of the first clients to move in will be Dolcetreats, a company in Gonzales that makes pralines. This company is already successful with products in 15 stores. But they want to move out of their current facility to cut down on overhead costs.

“They’ll use our facility once or twice a week. They’ll be one of our anchor clients,” Sandoz said.

One of the most important services offered by the incubator is marketing.

“If you can’t market your business, you can’t succeed,” Sandoz said.

She regularly helps clients get featured on local television shows and in newspapers and magazines.

In addition, she guides people to farmers markets and festivals and helps them get their products on grocery store shelves.

Sandoz arranged for a Taste of Louisiana tent at the June 15 Garden Fest at the AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden in Baton Rouge, which drew more than 1,000 in attendance.

“We were a big hit. Our clients loved it,” Sandoz said.

She also has arranged a booth at the Louisiana Restaurant Association meeting, which will be Aug. 3-5 in New Orleans.

“This will give clients the opportunity to promote their products to restaurants,” Sandoz said.

In May, Sandoz and John Ware, president of the Louisiana Business Incubator Association, were invited by Sen. Mary Landrieu to tour successful business incubators in Boston.

“This trip was very helpful for us,” Sandoz said. “The contacts we made will help us leverage grant money for the incubator.”

“We saw and learned tons of things,” Ware said. “They have more venture capital in the Boston area. But we can teach Boston a few things. People all over the world are trying to duplicate the food of Louisiana. Senator Landrieu is to be commended for her support of small businesses and entrepreneurship. She took time from her busy schedule to arrange this trip and meet with us.”

Ware said his association will host a national meeting in New Orleans for people involved with business incubators in 2014.

Linda Foster Benedict

Note: Following is a list of the first companies to be part of the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator. If you would like contact information for any of these companies, please email either Sandoz or Benedict.

Buddy’s Creole Foods, Chomp Chomp Restaurant, Delightful Pallete, Dip Me! Gourmet Snack Dips, Dolcetreats, Easy Street Candies, Elkarita, Graham’s Kitchen, Hanley’s Foods, Hooked On Salad Dressing, Lola Marie’s Chocolates, Miletello’s Gourmet Foods, Moe’s Crawfish Kitchen, Old Soul Pickles and Preserves, Petite Perfectio, Pourcia’s Praline Sauce, Ruth’s Recipes, Southern Art Foods and Sucker’s Food Products

7/26/2013 7:40:29 PM
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