BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU AgCenter Food Incubator tenant Richard Hanley of Hanley’s Foods has upgraded to a co-packer in Louisiana that will manufacture his Sensation salad dressing. Hanley, who has been with the incubator since its opening in July 2013, will now be able to produce 650 gallons a day, which will help meet increasing demand for his product.
The LSU AgCenter Food Incubator provides small food entrepreneurs with kitchen space, processing equipment and assistance from AgCenter marketing and food science experts. It currently serves 18 tenants, who produce everything from salad dressing to barbecue sauce to pralines, and six more will join soon.
Hanley is the first tenant to graduate to a co-packer, according to Food Incubator director Gaye Sandoz.
“This is a huge accomplishment,” Sandoz said. “Reaching the level of sales needed to be accepted by a co-packer is no easy task. Richard has a great product that we’ve enjoyed helping him improve, and he’s worked very hard to market it and grow his business.”
When Hanley joined the incubator, his salad dressing was sold in about 30 stores. Within six months that number grew to 150. The Sensation salad dressing is sold in stores in five states, including Whole Foods, Rouses Supermarkets and Associated Grocers.
“We wouldn’t be here without the people at the incubator and their expertise,” he said. “They know what works in this business. Being able to talk to someone about what it takes to have optimum yield, how to perfect a recipe that needs to be shelf stable and having that network was crucial when we were starting off.”
As Hanley’s sales grew, production of his salad dressing became an increasingly involved process. Hanley and a team of eight to nine friends and family members had to make several batches of product in the incubator’s 40-gallon kettles and bottle them by hand to meet demand.
While that size equipment works well for new food entrepreneurs, it is less cost-effective when producing on a larger scale, Hanley said.
“Now we’re able to go to a manufacturer with a product we know we can stand by and produce it almost fully automatically and in larger batches at a time,” he said.
Hanley’s next project is an avocado salad dressing. He is working on formulations with AgCenter food scientist Luis Espinoza and assistant incubator manager Marvin Moncada. The first small batches will be produced at the Food Incubator.