Olivia McClure | 12/4/2015 3:45:18 AM
News Release Distributed 12/03/15
BATON ROUGE, La. – As people embark on Christmas shopping trips at crowded stores, some entrepreneurs are reaping the benefits of a trend toward giving locally made food items as gifts.
Tenants in the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator have been ramping up production since the fall to meet holiday demand. November and December mark the busiest time of year in the food business, and it takes months of preparation to make the holiday shopping season a profitable one.
Sales this time of year are critical to overall business success, said Trey Bacon, who makes Baconation Foods barbecue sauce at the Food Incubator.
“We sold more in the first six weeks of this quarter than we did in all of 2014,” he said.
Bacon, who started planning for holiday production back in August, is selling gift baskets with seasonally wrapped jars of barbecue sauce, Louisiana-shaped cutting boards and other items.
The cutting boards are a limited-time offer. “Everyone that’s bought one has bought it as a Christmas gift,” he said, adding that many have been shipped to Louisiana natives now living out of state and seeking to “feel their roots.”
Food Incubator products are attractive gift options because they’re made by small local businesses, said Lili Courtney, who makes her Delightful Palate salad dressing at the Food Incubator.
“People love that story, that they’re locally made,” she said.
Companies like Delightful Palate should take advantage of community Christmas events to promote their products, Courtney said.
“We’ve been somewhere every weekend doing cooking classes and demos,” Courtney said. “Pairing yourself with local grocery stores for their events is important.”
Deciding on a strategy early is one key to Courtney’s success. She has been sharing holiday recipes and cooking tips through email blasts and social media every week for the past couple of months. In September, Courtney picked out items to go in her gift boxes, which include each of her three flavors of salad dressing, spice blends and dishtowels with recipes printed on them.
Many incubator tenants decided to sell gift boxes this year, and they’ve proven popular.
Charlie D’Agostino, of the D’Agostino Pasta Company, has sold more than 900 gift boxes to customers in Louisiana and Texas. Some companies have ordered 50 to 100 gift boxes at a time for clients and colleagues.
“These gift boxes are critical to the success of D’Agostino Pasta Company,” D’Agostino said. “The month of December, with gift box sales and increased retails sales at the Drusilla Shopping Center in Baton Rouge, actually accounts for about 30 percent of our annual sales. The holidays are critical to our company’s ability to survive.”
Linda McAdams, who makes Truly Southern Pretzel Crunch at the incubator with her family, said the Christmas rush of orders started as soon as Halloween was over. Lately, they’ve been coming to the incubator’s kitchen twice a week to make the pretzel crunch, including a holiday edition peppermint flavor.
“It is our busiest time of the year,” McAdams said. “We’ve doubled the amount of kitchen time we’ve had to produce to keep up with demand in October and November.”
Truly Southern is offering customizable gifts boxes with three flavors of the pretzel crunch.
“It’s something kind of homemade without you having to actually make it, and the fact that it is local is a huge plus,” McAdams said. “You can give somebody the bag, and all they have to do is open it and enjoy it.”
Food Incubator products are available at stores across Louisiana. Many tenants also sell their products through their websites or take orders by phone and email.