Her gut feeling wasn’t a good one, and the spam call turned out to be opportunity knocking. The first led Cori Deans to start a probiotics food business, and the second helped her take her Small Town Cultures to the next level.
“About 10 years ago, I had severe Crohn’s disease and had difficulty curing it,” Deans says from her home base in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Eventually, fermented foods proved to be the answer her gut wanted, even though Dean wasn’t crazy about the tastes of those she could get her hands on.
“So I said I’ll just make my own,” she said, and started research both the process and the business possibilities. “In 2018, I started to actually sell product through a local distributor.” Through the years, Dean’s Small Town Cultures developed a line of raw, fermented, probiotic foods that come in clear 12-ounce jars (around $10 each), including turmeric kimchi, red onions, carrots, lemon zest, and dilly beans.
Then came the call. “In 2020, Whole Foods reached out to me,” Deans says with some amazement still in her voice. “I thought it was spam, but they said they had been looking for a product line such as ours for their stores. We launched with them that summer.”
Deans attributes her success thus far to several strategies, a main one being to look at how her competitors are doing something and do it differently. “No one was putting theirs in clear containers, so we did ours in clear bottles so that customers could see the product,” she says. “Our products have high acidity, so we don’t use plastics.” Today, her food manufacturing is being done in nearby Plattsburg.
Another strategy has been to let the marketplace decide what products it wants. “Just because I like something doesn’t everyone else will.” Finally, Deans wants the products to sell based on their tastes, even though her own ill health was what her started down that road. “We make no health claims,” she says. “Instead, we give recipes to how our product can be used.”
Looking ahead, she plans to stick with the food products that got her business where it is, instead of expanding by selling to restaurants and other institutional foods businesses. Increasingly, Small Town Cultures is now being found in big cities and high-end establishments across the United States.
California-based Alive Ferments’ origin story is that brothers Niccolo and Sasha Fraschetti started making salsa that tasted the way they remembered it in the U.S. when they returned to their native Italy. What they came up with was tasty, but would spoil before they could eat it all. So they added starter culture to preserve it and were on their way. All of their sauces contain less than 10 ingredients, are naturally fermented in small batches, are preservative-free (must be stored in the fridge), sugar-free, gluten-free, and vegan. They come in four flavors and sell for $14 for an 8-ounce bottle.
Not all chicken soup is hatched Brooklyn. And True Primal’s line of soups and chilis, including the Southwest style chicken soup we slurped up, comes in single-serving pouches that don’t need to be refrigerated and only need to be warmed up. In addition to the bird, this one contained bell pepper, tomato, onion, and chile pepper in chicken broth with added beef gelatin. It’s paleo-friendly, in case you hang out with any cave people. An 8-pack shipment costs about $24.
DOGFISH HEAD CRUSH
“A lot of folks don’t realize it, but Dogfish Head has been distilling spirits for about two decades, and we actually released our first ready-to-drink bottled cocktail back in 2017,” says Sam Calagione, Dogfish founder & brewer. The Delaware-based company, which was acquired by Boston Brewing just before the pandemic, recently launched its Crush series, all 7% alcohol. The cans come in four flavors – orange & mango vodka, lemon & lime gin, pineapple& orange gin, and grapefruit & pomegranate vodka. An 8-pack will set you back about $16.