"When we first started our business, we were primarily a gift shop featuring large collections of baskets and cookbooks and other sundries," Nelson says. "This inventory underwent a major change when a steady stream of visitors to the store kept asking for cookbooks with recipes similar to the meals being offered in the local area restaurants, especially the popular 'shrimp 'n' grits'." Amazingly, she says, not one of the cookbooks the store carried at the time had that recipe.
Because visitors were truly enjoying the Gullah fare at local restaurants, Nelson set out to offer not only the recipes but the fixin's as well. And she made it possible for customers to take home a bit of history and the local language flavor as well as delicious packages of easy-to-make entrées and desserts. While brainstorming at the kitchen table with her artistic niece, they came up with an illustration of a shrimp that served as the centerpiece for the first package.
"Labels mean everything!" Nelson says. "Packaging is really it! If there are two similar products on the shelf, one with run-of-the-mill labels and one with ours, it's 99.9 percent that we'll sell first."
The bottles and jars were added just four years ago, Nelson says, "and they now account for about 25 percent of the business already." Some of the labels are hand applied, while others are machine applied, depending on the product and the quantity of the run.
Gullah Gourmet uses two basic label formats. One is a clear oval with the store name, contact info and web site, used for repacked or nonfood items in the store, and is supplied by Carolina Retail Packaging in Lexington, SC. Second are the colorful labels for the bottles and jars which also contain the nutritional information. For example, there's an "Amazin' Grazin" raspberry mustard dip with an illustration of a church. All of these labels are supplied by Consolidated Label of Longwood, FL, USA, a converter who has won the Best Managed Company award from the Tag & Label Manufacturers Institute four years in a row.
So the next time you have a hankering for "sum a dat good stuff", take a look at www.gullahgourmet.com. You might just fall in love with "Tomato Splat", a Vidalia onion/tomato dressing, or "Up Popped da Debel" hot sauce!
Safe and healthy
Mother Earth Sundries is a company based in Dayton, OH, USA offering a complete line of "earth friendly" products for people and pets. Owner Donna Walls says the mission is "To provide safe, effective products using only people and earth friendly ingredients." After working for years as a registered nurse, Walls was accustomed to working with and using natural products. About six years ago she began teaching about the value of environmentally friendly products. "It almost goes without saying," she says. "If a product is environmentally friendly it will be people friendly."
So how did this career nurse, who is also trained in holistic medicine as an herbalist and aromatherapist, get into the business of manufacturing and selling a line of products? "I've always been interested in natural products, and last spring a friend of mine said, 'You ought to start a business," Walls recalls. And last May she did just that.
"Being right-brained," she continues, "I came up with a list of 40 'must have' products." She relied on her son-in-law's brother for assistance in designing and setting up her web page (www.MotherEarthSundries.com) and initially wanted to have a photo of every herb and all other natural ingredients on each label for the 40 different products.
"I love the labels," she says. "They convey the image of what we're offering."
Another issue that arose early on was the requirement for waterproofing or water resistance, because some of the products - like body or bath washes - are used in the shower, and others are used on or near the kitchen sink, etc. "Schuerholz selected a material which at least is semi-waterproof," Wall says. She even submerged the labeled products in water to check out the label's durability and they passed with flying colors - no ink smearing or bleeding, no degradation of the labels.
Many of the product names are whimsical and/or very descriptive, such as the "Clean with a Conscience" all-purpose cleaners, or "Soothe Baby's Bum Cream", or "Eucalyptus Sinus Soother". Asked how long it took to come up with 40 different product names, Walls says, "Not very long - I just sat down and started putting them on paper and it turned out to be very easy."
A believer in "packaging helps sell," Walls observes, "If the labeled product looks nice, it makes all the difference in the world between selling or not." And maintaining high quality ingredients is another critical requirement. "We can't afford to cut corners - our demographics are clients who are looking for natural, paraben-free products. If they like what they try initially, then they will use other products in our line."
Mother Earth Sundries is currently offered in local chiropractor's offices, massage clinics, Olympia Health Food stores, and two large, upscale Dayton-area independent grocers, as well as through the Mother Earth Sundries web site and cross-marketing with other natural/organic product web sites.