Hanley’s Foods began with a light bulb moment in the grocery store almost six years ago when Richard Hanley was picking up ingredients to make a classic south Louisiana Sensation salad.
Hanley, now 32, wondered why the popular salad dressing couldn’t be found in stores.
As Business Report details in the new Executive Spotlight feature from the new issue, Hanley set out to fill the void, but with locally sourced ingredients and without all the preservatives and additives.
After a year of development—and eating Sensation salad at least three times a week for over a year—he found a recipe that was a hit at parties, at home and at the Red Stick Farmers Market.
He and his wife Kate quit their jobs, and they’ve been growing their business slowly and profitably ever since.
The dressing, meanwhile, can be found on the shelves at stores like The Harvest, Calandro’s, Alexander’s Highland Market, LeBlanc’s, Calvin’s Bocage Market, Matherne’s, Hi-Nabor, Bet-R, Rouses, Winn-Dixie and Whole Foods. Richard Hanley says it’s set to hit Wal-Mart shelves early next year.
Keeping up with demand has been the biggest challenge for the startup, Hanley says.
“The world has enough good products, and these days good isn’t good enough. You have to make something great. And when you do, you have to be able to keep up with it,” he says, adding that he relies on family and friends to help out with the business. His sister, Katie Hanley Dunlap, has capped, sealed and shrink-banded 300,000-plus bottles of dressing.
Hanley attributes his company’s existence to the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator. The incubator, Hanley says, played a major role in Hanley’s Foods’ ability to get started and get to market. Incubator director Gaye Sandoz—who has been in the food industry for 35-plus years—also provided valuable insight and feedback.
“I will forever remain in debt to these amazing mentors and hope to pay it forward any way I can,” Hanley says. “I’ve talked to several food companies about our screw-ups and triumphs to help them the best I can. If anyone wants to talk about food/business, they can feel free to email me anytime.”
Read the full Executive Spotlight Q&A with Hanley. Here’s an example of what you’ll find:
What is one thing about your job people don’t know about or expect?
“One of the biggest assumptions is that once you make something great and get it on the shelf, you’re set. The truth is that is the easy part. The hardest part is getting it off the shelf and then back on again—fast.”
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