Smokemdanos dba Dano's Specialty Salsa
Smokemdano, now doing business as Dano’s Specialty Sauces, grew out of Hickory Road BBQ, a restaurant in Auburn, NE. The restaurant and salsa business are owned by Dan and Rachelle Emshoff with Rachelle being the president of the incorporated entity. The company’s website is www.hickoryroadbbq.com.
The Emshoffs started their family owned and operated barbeque restaurant and catering business in 1997. Shortly after that, Dan began experimenting with his own salsa recipes. It took a few years to perfect, but eventually they had a product they could serve at Hickory Road BBQ alongside their homemade chips. As a result of the product’s popularity, the Emshoffs decided to package the salsa for retail sale.
To assist with the commercial development of their salsa, the Emshoffs enrolled in Nebraska MEP-Food Processing Center’s Food Entrepreneurship Assistance Program (FEAP). The first step was attending the Center’s nationally recognized “From Recipe to Reality” workshop. This one-day workshop covered the basics of starting a food business.
After initial consultation with the staff at Nebraska MEP-Food Processing Center, the Emshoffs continued into the next phase of FEAP, “From Product to Profit”, which consisted of one-on-one technical and business development assistance to create a market-ready product. Bethany Jackson, a food scientist at The Food Processing Center, assisted the Emshoffs with formulating their product for commercial processing and creating a nutritional facts panel and FDA-approved product label. Jackson also guided the Emshoffs through the basic requirements for processing acidified foods.
Jill Gifford, FEAP Manager, assisted in connecting the Emshoffs with the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP), which extended a low interest loan to them for the development of their new business venture. This funding provided critical start-up capital for the Emshoffs.
The assistance provided by Nebraska MEP-Food Processing Center, a partner of the Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership, enabled the Emshoffs to modify their foodservice product for distribution to the consumer retail market, providing another stream of revenue for the restaurant entrepreneurs.
With the help of Jill Gifford, the Emshoffs searched for a co-packer to manufacture their salsa, eventually settling on Original Juan’s out of Kansas City. Using the scaled-up formulation developed at The Food Processing Center, a test batch was run in 2007 and the salsa went into production in April 2008.
Dano’s Specialty Sauces was initially marketed in numerous stores across the state, including both retail supermarkets and specialty food stores. After assessment, distribution was scaled back in the winter of 2008. The salsa is now sold in approximately 10 stores in eastern Nebraska. It is also sold online on the Emshoffs’ website as well as through GROW Nebraska, a website dedicated to promoting Nebraska products and services. Product turnover has been very satisfactory; the salsa is currently in its fifth 110-gallon batch and the annual gross sales for last year were almost $10,000.
The Emshoffs are currently facing distribution issues and are attempting to solve this by becoming a member of Affiliated Foods, an independent grocery distributor. Currently their products are personally delivered to retailers. It is Rachelle Emshoff’s hope that they can be stocked by the Affiliated Foods warehouse in Norfolk, NE; thereby improving the efficiency with which their product can be distributed as well as opening up opportunities for more widespread market penetration.
Dano’s plans to expand its product line in the near future. The Emshoffs plan to release two varieties of barbeque sauce, with the first variety ready for production by summer 2009, depending on available financing. Both varieties are already in use at Hickory Road BBQ.
“The UNL Food Processing Center was vital in making our business a reality. They guided us in the right direction and helped us make educated decisions about our options. Everyone we have worked with from The Food Processing Center has been professional and knowledgeable. Anyone who wants to turn their dream into reality should save valuable time and money by seeking the assistance of these wonderful people.”