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After purchasing the food products manufacturer in 2018, Chris Evans plans to take the products sold under his Hopsing Cashew Chicken Mix and Grove Salsa labels nationwide. His hopes are particularly high for his take on the at-home mix for Springfield-style cashew chicken sauce.
SBJ: What motivated you to get into this industry?
Chris Evans: I had been in the food industry for a decade, and I always wanted to own my own business, like my dad and granddad. I found this business for sale in 2018 and I jumped on it. Getting out of the restaurant business was a big motivator. Doing this, I’m still dealing with food, I’m still comfortable in this area. The time freedom was huge. Also, I’ve kind of morphed this business into other things. We are now a co-packer and offer private labeling. If someone comes to me with a sauce, I can develop that. Working with entrepreneurs really motivates me.
SBJ: What inspired you to create your own brand of cashew chicken sauce?
Evans: Actually, the product has been in market since 1991. The original owner created it. It was designed after Chef David Leong’s recipe. It’s different because most sauces are liquid form. This is powder form. We had it specially crafted. We found it’s more consistent if it’s in the powder form rather than the liquid form. It’s really hard to get it exact every time. It’s light; it’s easy to grab. It lasts a long time. Before I bought the company, there were no online sales. Somebody would call from Florida, mail us a check, and I thought, oh my goodness, that needs to change. Now, we’re on Amazon and have our own website. Online sales are just crazy – Hawaii, Alaska, all over the country people are familiar with Springfield-style cashew chicken but can’t get it anywhere else. We can bring cashew chicken to the world.
SBJ: How did you raise online awareness?
Evans: The label design was originally dark – black labels and gold, and it looked like the 1980s. We brightened it up and created a website. Facebook and Instagram accounts didn’t really exist before I took it on. Hopsing products are in just about 60% of the Walmart [stores] in Missouri, up to Columbia and down to Arkansas and West Plains. I would love to keep expanding on the online sales because that’s the easiest and fastest.
SBJ: What’s next on the radar?
Evans: Being creative, I want to make some more sauces like teriyaki or orange chicken. Grove Salsa just got into Hy-Vee’s warehouse, which serves 300-plus stores, and Schnucks’ warehouse, with 80 stores. We distribute to 80 stores ourselves. That’s just going to double and triple us.
SBJ: How are you handling that growth?
Evans: It’s not easy. I’m going to have to hire some more people. Last year, I bought the building we’re in. It was a gift from God. We’re in 3,000 square feet now. It came with a detached building with tenants, but as I grow, I have 5,000 extra square feet I can use for growth.
SBJ: What are your hopes for the future?
Evans: I would love to get Hopsing and Grove Salsa as commonly known as Tostitos or House of Tsang. I’d love to be all over the United States.
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