By Sherri Welch
An Inkster building that previously housed production for Garden Fresh products is finding new life as a food processing and packaging site that’s helping other local food companies grow.
Garden Fresh founder Jack Aronson sold the building for $1 to Eastern Market Corp. in Detroit to provide another link in the local food processing chain.
Eastern Market is leasing the 14,500-square-foot site on Michigan Avenue near John Daly Street to Feast LLC, a processing and co-packing company formed by three local food companies that have launched production of their products there.
The food makers behind Feast are Amit Makhecha and his M&R Ventures, a maker of chutneys and other products; Marcia Nodel and her daughter-in-law Michal Nodel of Marcia’s Munchies pickles; and Scott and Suzi Owens of Scotty O’Hotty hot sauce, salsa and pickles.
Beyond production for the three stakeholder companies, Feast is offering the same services to other small and medium-size companies producing acidified products such as salad dressings and mustards and other shelf-stable products such as jams and jellies.
Those local food companies can contract services from Feast for products from start to finish, from recipe development and processing to bottling/packaging or co-packing and private labeling production and labeling.
Feast secured a $180,000 loan to purchase equipment for the new center from the Michigan Good Food Fund, made through lender Northern Initiatives.
The new operation, which is licensed under the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and registered under the Food and Drug Administration, is expected to create six full-time jobs to handle contracted food production and co-packing for client food companies.
Feast has already assumed production of Mucky Duck mustards for the brand’s founder, Dave Zilko, former vice chairman of Garden Fresh before its sale to Campbell Soup Co.’s Fresh division in 2015.
Previously, Zilko, who served on the board of Oak Park-based Forgotten Harvest, had contracted with Forgotten Harvest’s Hopeful Harvest Foods Inc. subsidiary for production of the mustard.
Forgotten Harvest exited the for-profit food processing business last year to focus more intently on its food rescue mission.
“Feast is a first step in Eastern Market Corp.’s program to accelerate food business in Michigan and will fill the current void that exists for food entrepreneurs looking to ramp up production and move their business to the next stage,” Mike DiBernardo, director of food innovation programs for Eastern Market Corp., said in a news release.
DiBernardo served on Feast’s board of directors and served as a consultant in developing the new site, along with the Michigan State University Product Center.
Each of the co-owners in the new venture have met challenges in their quest to grow and expand, Scotty O’Hotty’s Scott Owens said in the release. “We’re beyond thrilled to be using even more local resources and expanding our state-of-the-art manufacturing process to feed and employ more people,” he said.
The new processing site is only five miles from the Taylor building where Aronson is installing a new high-pressure processing line to offer local food processors the same preservative-free, fresh food preservation technology that enabled him to take Garden Fresh Salsa global.
Glass bottles cannot be put through the HPP process, which subjects foods to very high pressure, but plastic bottles can, Aronson said.
First posted on Crain’s Detroit Business October 22, 2017.