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Since getting placed in Price Cutter stores in January, Five Sisters Dressing owner Betsy Kassab says the condiment is in the chain's top 25 percent of salad dressings sold.
Since getting placed in Price Cutter stores in January, Five Sisters Dressing owner Betsy Kassab says the condiment is in the chain's top 25 percent of salad dressings sold.

Ready for Retail

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A lot of folks may have ideas about products they’d like to make and market, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to move an idea from development into the hands of consumers.

Still, it can be done, as evidenced by a growing number of local manufacturers that have made the leap, and company officials say market research, appealing packaging and assurances of solid profit margins for retailers are key.

Betsy Kassab, owner of Springfield-based Five Sisters Foods, said her journey began with plenty of research after her daughter suggested she start bottling salad dressing made with an old family recipe.

“My grandmother made this delicious recipe for salad dressing ever since I was a little girl. My mother made it as well,” Kassab said. “I have three children, and whenever their friends would come over, I made it all the time. I literally have never bought a bottle of salad dressing.”

The idea of switching career directions was appealing, said Kassab, who is a trained psychologist. She threw herself into research, initially contacting the Otts family in Carthage – behind products including the original Ott’s Famous Dressing – to find out more about the process.

After teaming up with Kansas City-based bottler Garden Complements Inc., she was ready to approach Price Cutter, which features a section for products made in Missouri.

“It took about two years from the time my daughter mentioned it,” Kassab said, noting that Five Sisters Dressing hit store shelves at Price Cutter on Jan. 23 and is now in 38 of the chain’s stores.

“They are really open to looking at products from around here,” Kassab said.

To date, Kassab says Five Sisters has sold about 10,000 units. The dressing, which comes in three varieties, retails for $3.99 to $4.99 a bottle, she said.

“It’s moving along. It’s not booming, but it’s consistent,” Kassab said, adding that sales of her salad dressing are in the top 25 percent of salad dressing sales at Price Cutter.

Kassab said she is Five Sisters’ sole employee, with bottling outsourced to Garden Complements and distribution handled by Price Cutter. Her goal, she said, is to get her products in at Springfield-based Associated Wholesale Grocers and move toward national distribution. She’s also preparing to expand her product line to include three pasta sauces, and eventually, she’d like to add hummus to the lineup.

Five Sisters isn’t the only manufacturer to take a chain-based approach to getting in front of consumers. For many companies, including Springfield-based Mother’s Brewing Co., landing a spot on the shelves of megaretailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s locations is particularly enticing.

On Aug. 29, Mother’s started supplying beer at nine area Wal-Mart stores through distributor Heart of America Beverage Co. Just a few weeks later, several hundred cases of the beer raked in more than $20,000 in sales.

Steve Eise, off-premise manager for Heart of America, said in late September that once his company secured the requisite UPC codes and pricing, Wal-Mart officials sent the information up the corporate ladder, and after correcting a minor error in the scanning process, several varieties of Mother’s Beer were ready to hit the selling floor – about three months after the brewery and distributor began working to get into Wal-Mart locations.

Andy Cobb’s approach for selling his Rockabilly Rub line of hair care and beauty products started on a much smaller scale, but his network is growing.
Cobb, owner of Traders Printing, started with a simple desire to make pomade with all natural ingredients. Beginning in his kitchen, he let friends try his product before he began selling it in May 2010.

Since then, his product line has grown to include mustache wax, lip balm, shave soaps, aftershave and pumice soap, available through 10 Springfield area retailers, including Just for Him, as well via two retailers in Kansas City.

“This past month, we picked up some retailers in Chicago, New York City and four in Sweden,” Cobb said.

At this point, all production takes place in Cobb’s kitchen. “I normally pick a weekend to where I can make as much product as I can,” Cobb said. “I have a party where everyone pitches in and helps out in trade for pomade or … pizza and beer.”

Cobb recognizes demand may soon outpace his current production methods.

“You adapt and overcome,” he said. “I do have some plans to make this a larger production and still be called handmade, because I think that’s important. I’ll never outsource my stuff overseas.”

Cobb said a 100 percent markup for retailers is the norm for salon and beauty products, and according to RockabillyRub.com, pomade sells for $15, while lip balm retails for $7.

For Christine Daues, getting her Granolove line of granola on store shelves was an evolutionary process.

The idea began as a seed planted by a friend who suggested she start marketing the granola she’d made for her family’s breakfast for years.

“We thought it was funny at the time,” Daues said.

She launched Granolove from her home in November 2010, and initially sold Granolove at a local farmers market. Her product was soon picked up by local niche grocer Homegrown Food LLC.

Moving from farmers market sales to store shelves wasn’t easy, Daues said. In addition to having to move production to a commercial kitchen, “you have to worry about profit margins big time. Grocery stores won’t let you in unless you can make a good profit margin,” Daues said, adding that profit margins for goods such as Granolove range from 20 percent to 30 percent, though she declined to disclose her company’s negotiated profit margin rates.

Earlier this year, Harter House began stocking Granolove in its Springfield stores.

Eastgate Harter House location owners Randy and Kathy Richards were willing to work with Granolove as a local producer, Daues said, noting that increased consumer demand for locally made products has boosted Granolove’s market presence. Now, Granolove sells about 300 bags of granola a month, with a suggested retail price of $7.95 a bag, Daues said, noting that 10 percent of Granolove’s profits go to Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Daues is Granolove’s sole employee, but she is looking for a co-packer that would allow production on a larger scale, enabling Granolove to pursue relationships with larger retailers such as Price Cutter or Dillons.[[In-content Ad]]

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