Cooks are making waves at Norco’s Edible Enterprises, now in its third year of operation. More than 1,000 stores across the region are filled with food products manufactured at the self-service plant, which represents a 233 percent increase from last year, according to Gaye Sandoz, the marketing and production director.
Edible Enterprises is a 12,000-square-foot facility that features three state-of-the-art commercial kitchens. Aspiring caterers, bakers and specialty-food makers share workspace and equipment, which are generally too expensive for most start-up companies. Equipment available for the entrepreneurs to use includes a $20,000 semi-automatic bottler and automatic labeler, a copper candy maker, a 45-quart Hobart kneader and an emulsifier and chopper.
Tenants pay a rental fee to use the facility.
“For the past four years, we have been granted $50,000 annually from the Louisiana Business Incubator Association and Louisiana Economic Development Department to buy processing and other equipment,” Sandoz said. “We are so appreciative of their generous grant that assists our small businesses.”
This year, Sandoz said tenant companies have manufactured almost 100,000 units of product and provided more than 1,200 hours of employment opportunities. The products produced are carried at big-name retailers such as Rouses, Whole Foods, Matherne’s Supermarket and Breaux Mart. Five companies will also be featured at the newly-opened Fresh Market on St. Charles Street in New Orleans.
The 26 current tenants make everything from tea, to bayou sauce to banana bread.
Sandoz said as Edible Enterprises enters its third year, interest in the facility has drastically increased.
“We have had over 150 inquiries and 40 tenants to sign up with the facility,” she said. “We currently have 26 tenants, but several more are just waiting on permits.”
Edible Enterprises is the only food business incubator in Louisiana. The facility has consulted more than 100 aspiring food companies from 10 parishes. Five companies have now built or leased their own manufacturing plant after getting their start at Edible Enterprises.
Charlie and Lois Comeaux began making their Wow Wee dipping sauce at Edible Enterprises in September 2011. Because of the success of the sauce, which goes with seafood, chicken wings and burgers, the Comeauxs have built their own manufacturing plant in Cut Off.
“Edible Enterprises allowed us to experiment with our business to see if it was going to work out,” Charlie said. “Without Edible Enterprises, we would have never been able to start this business because it would have cost $200,000 to get the kind of equipment we needed.”
Charlie said his manufacturing plant has just been completed and he hopes to hire five or six full-time employees. The company will also roll out a new spicy tartar sauce, which Charlie said will be the only product like it on the market.
For more information, call Edible Enterprises at (985) 764-1504.