Made in Louisiana Edible Enterprises
Edible Enterprises helps food companies get started
BY CHERAMIE SONNIER
Advocate Food editor
February 01, 2012
NORCO — An enticing aroma of baking brownies wafted through Edible Enterprises as Gaye Sandoz, director of marketing and tenant services, showed visitors around the incubator and technology center for entrepreneurs wanting “to develop and successfully market specialty food products.”
The brownies are the product of Louisiana Good Foods, the packaged goods division the incubator recently launched to help raise additional funds to support its program. The fresh baked goods, including Pecan Praline Brownies and Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies, hit store shelves in November through a partnership with Kenner-based Diamond Distributing.
Both of its kitchens were rented out that day. In one, a crew from Louisiana Sisters, was busy pouring ingredients into a 60-gallon kettle to make its Bloody Mary Mix, which was then “hot filled” by hand into bottles using funnels and pitchers. Owner Sharon Mahne, of River Ridge, mostly depends on family — she’s one of 10 children — and friends for help with production. The company began making the Bloody Mary Mix to help move its New Orleans Martini Spiced Olive Juice, she said.
The company’s products also include Louisiana Sisters New Orleans Spiced Olives, Pepper Jelly and Spiced Tapenade. All Louisiana Sisters’ products are from family recipes, according to Pauline Poole, who heads sales and marketing for the company.
Across the hall, co-owner Lois Comeaux, of Cut Off, oversees the bottling of Wow Wee Dipping Sauce, which she says is “the sauce we use when we boil seafood. One store uses it for fried onion blossoms and it can be used as a seafood salad dressing, on hamburgers or with french fries.”
Comeaux developed the Wow Wee Dipping Sauce recipe, and last May she and her partners, including husband, Charlie Comeaux, and their four children plus Joe and Allison Maxwell, of Metairie, contacted Edible Enterprises. “We started bottling in mid-September” and already have the 16-ounce bottles in 67 stores in south Louisiana and at some festivals. “We average 700 bottles a week. They sell in stores for about $4.”
Sandoz describes Wow Wee as “a new, very successful sauce company,” with an incredible amount of sales for a new food company. “Most newcomers don’t sell 800 bottles in a month.”
Louisiana Sisters and Wow Wee LLC are among the 22 companies from nine parishes across southeastern Louisiana served by Edible Enterprises, Sandoz said. More than half are women-owned businesses.
“As the only food business incubator in the state, we provide an innovative service and have consulted over 65 aspiring food companies to date,” Sandoz said. In 2011, tenant companies manufactured more than 33,000 units of product and “provided more than 875 hours of employment opportunities.”
She said Edible Enterprises, located at 917 Third St. in Norco, is a program of Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana, Inc. It opened its doors in June 2009, but the program began two years earlier through the collaboration of the St. Charles Parish government, the Norco Community Economic Development Foundation and River Parishes Community Development Corp.
“This is a do-it-yourself operation,” Sandoz said as she observed Buffy Kennedy seal plastic neck sleeves onto bottles of Wow Wee Dipping Sauce with a handheld hair dryer. Edible Enterprises’ shrink-wrap machine can’t be used because it is for glass bottles and gift packs and would melt Wow Wee’s plastic bottles.
Sandoz headed to the back of the building where Don Militello, owner of Militello’s Gourmet Specialties, stores his equipment. She came back with a small shrink-wrap machine for using on individual bottles and set it up for Kennedy to use.
Militello, of Gonzales, developed the idea for the machine and built it. “Don Militello should be an inventor,” Sandoz said.
Also in the office that day was Rosario D’Amico, of Sicily’s Finest Gourmet Foods, of Destrehan. His company uses fresh vegetables to make its gluten-free Original New Orleans Pasta Sauce and New Orleans Original Creole Sauce.
“When they get big enough to graduate from here, I find a co-packer who will do their product for them,” Sandoz said. “Some people (co-packers) won’t touch a company until it does 10,000 units at a time.”
For more information about Edible Enterprises, call (985) 764-1504 or visit its Web site athttp://www.edibleenterprises.org.
To learn more about Louisiana Sisters, go to the web site http://www.LouisianaSisters.net or contact Sharon Mahne at (504) 390-1667 or Pauline Poole at (225) 603-5868.
For Wow Wee, LLC, write 191 E. 39th St., Cut Off, LA 70345; e-mail Lois Comeaux at firstname.lastname@example.org or Charlie Comeaux at email@example.com; or call (985) 291-9490 or (985) 677-1753.
For Militello’s Gourmet, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (225) 413-3146, and for Sicily’s Finest Gourmet Foods, e-mail email@example.com or call (505) 906-1754.