Entrepreneurial

Bakery pushes own brand after years of white-label production

One way to counter the effects of the recession is to start a retail brand. That’s what entrepreneur Karen Trilevsky did.

The founder and CEO of FullBloom Baking Co, a 22-year-old natural foods bakery outside San Francisco, started rolling out her own line of branded snacks in 2008, after years serving as the behind-the-scenes regional baker for big customers like Whole Foods.

Trilevsky, 54, admited it’s been tough to create a market for new products in the crowded natural and organic foods space, which commands premium pricing –- sometimes as much as 50 percent –- over conventional grocery items. With all the belt tightening, she said customers are often reluctant to try new things.

“The grocery stores seem to be much more reticent to make changes,” she said. “There’s no risk taking going on.”

Even so, FullBloom has been able to carve out shelf space for its products, offering up snacks customers can’t find elsewhere in this premium niche of food retailing.

Betting the farm on your customers

Organic dairy farmer Dante Hesse is hoping the customers who lap up his milk by the quart at local New York farmers’ markets will also invest in his future.

What started as a series of “low key” one-on-one conversations with customers at local farmers’ markets near his Ghent, New York farm, has escalated into a serious attempt to raise $850,000 – in as little as $1,000 increments – directly from his dairy-loving consumers.

“I learned pretty quickly that there was a lot of interest, but I also needed to find some council who could tell me how to do this legally,” said Hesse, who founded Milk Thistle organic dairy farm with his wife, Kristin, three years ago. He intends to use the bulk of the money to build an onsite processing plant that will help him ramp up production and diversify into making other milk-based products like yogurt, butter and ice cream.

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