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The HVADC Cultivator

HVADC Client Update:
Vital Eats

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Vital Eats founders Reuben Shwartz and Jude Goldman were outstanding graduates of the 2020 HVADC Farm and Food Funding Accelerator program (FFFA). While in the FFFA program, the duo were producing their own line of vegan condiments and sauces using only plant based ingredients, and had identified an opportunity to develop an incubator co-packing operation, not only to create their own value added products but to also be able to offer services to other food producers. In the short time since (and through a pandemic) Vital Eats has been able to move from producing just their own line of hot sauces and vegan snacks to helping start new brands for others as a co-packing service called Packs Heat. 

 

Shwartz says through co-packing he is excited to offer other small food industry startups, like Vital Eats was, the help they need to make their recipes a reality. 

“Being able to help customers who were like ourselves 5-10 years ago is very rewarding,” Shwartz said. “It can be extremely daunting to get off the ground, especially if you don’t have experience playing in the arena.” He noted that through the development of Vital Eats initially, they found that there were very few co-packers in the region that could help a prospective food start-up business produce their product without imposing large minimums. 

When it comes to running Packs Heat, Shwartz says his secret weapon that he’s personally mechanically handy. Shwartz grew up on a farm and was use to tinkering and working on engines and machinery. He has saved time, resources and money by being able to fix and fabricate the parts he needs for his process. 

“Even back during the HVADC program I had the idea for co-packing,” Shwartz said. “COVID hit and it really shut down our retail operation so it got me thinking about packing for others sooner than later.”

Now Vital Eats clients need just bring recipes and label designs and the Vital Eats facility in Albany handles the rest. Currently the entire company is essentially a two-man operation but recent success means they will be hiring soon. 

“The guys at Vital Eats know the main component to running a successful business and that’s working as hard as you possibly can,” said Mary Ann Johnson, HVADC Deputy Director. “Through co packing not only are they growing their brand but they are paying it forward to other hard working entrepreneurs who just need someone to open the door for them into the world of actually producing product. Their work is truly vital.”

Vital Eats Packs Heat recently began producing the product line for regionally-based celebrity chef Ric Orlando. Ric Olando’s BEST brand offers a comprehensive line of hot sauces, rubs and spice blends available online and in grocers across the region. The co-packer is finding a space with a focus on smaller, regional producers, restaurants launching their own private label brands, and with corporate gifts.

“We are filling a cool niche right now of boutique bottling,” Shwartz said. “In this economic climate it’s been more challenging than ever but those of us that survive will become the next leaders in the industry,” Said Shwartz. “We invest everything into our clients because if we are successful than they are successful.” 

Packs Heat currently specializes in sauces and spice blends and offers glass bottle and jars (ranging from 5 – 16 ounces) as well as sealed bags. They cap, neckband and label products with provided logos. Shwartz says much of the process they are implementing got its start during the FFFA program. 

“Between the knowledge we got and the contacts we made with them, HVADC was invaluable,” Shwartz said. “Coming in with little experience like we were it was very helpful. They helped me focus on want exactly we wanted to do, and now we have the opportunity to help others.” 

To contact Schwartz, email him at reuben@vitaleats.com.
 

Photo Credit: Brie Passano

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