Norco food incubator continues growth

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 28, 2011



NORCO – A small business incubator in St. Charles Parish that caters to those who manufacture and sell food products was recently awarded a $50,000 grant from a pair of state agencies.

Edible Enterprises of Norco received the grant from the Louisiana Business Incubation Association and the Louisiana Economic Development Department to be used for the purchase of food processing equipment and building upgrades, said Director of Marketing Gaye Sandoz.

Sandoz said the capital assets award will help increase production capabilities for the 24 small food companies that are tenants at the site, which serves as the only food incubator in the state. She said the 12,000-square-foot facility includes two state-of-the-art commercial kitchens, where food entrepreneurs share workspace and equipment that would generally be too expensive for most start-up companies.

Sandoz said Edible Enterprises received a similar grant last year, which allowed the facility to purchase an automatic labeling machine, freezers and other equipment that saves its tenants money and time in producing their products.

“If these businesses were forced to buy the equipment we offer, they would be paying several hundred-thousand dollars just to get off the ground,” Sandoz said. “When they come here, they pay a $200 application fee, plus $20 hourly rental fees and get access to everything we offer. Grants like this go a long way toward our goal of helping these companies find their niche in the market.”

Sandoz said the 24 food companies enrolled in the incubator, many from the River Parishes, produce food products such as BBQ sauces, remoulade sauces, pasta sauces, cheese balls, teas, cupcakes, banana bread, rum cakes, dipping sauces and bloody mary mixes. The products are shelved in 350 stores across Southeast Louisiana.

Sandoz said one recently added company, Wow Wee, has been able to take advantage of the facility’s new labeling machine, which can label 500 bottles in one hour as opposed to hand labeling. She said the company’s dipping sauces can be found in more than 100 stores in the area.

“I have been in the food business for 30 plus years and have never seen a company establish accounts so quickly,” Sandoz said. “It gives us great pleasure to be able to assist them in their very successful food business. We have the resources such as store lists and contacts to assist them in their regional and national growth.”

Edible Enterprises is a collaborative effort of various groups including St. Charles Parish Government, the Louisiana Business and Technology Center, the state Department of Agriculture and Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana.