Tenants at the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator will be able to expand their operations into the 4,500-square-foot bottling facility this fall, when most production happens.
It’s highly anticipated news for an increasingly crowded incubator, where six businesses—Ponchatoula Pepper Company, The King Cake Queen, Twang, Everyday Gourmet, Noni’s Kitchen, and a macaroon-making startup—are in the process of joining its 22 existing tenants, some of which will migrate to the new building.
“The tenants have grown in their volume and their sales, and our space here is small,” says Gaye Sandoz, food incubator director. “They’re growing so big that they’re growing out of the facility we have now.”
The incubator last year had a record-production of more than 100 tons, a nearly 3,000% increase from the 3.5 tons tallied in 2013.
The new facility—a renovated warehouse located at the intersection of Nicholson Drive Extension and Highland Road—will automate the packaging and bottling processes for products such as gelato, salsa, oils, dressings and hummus, along with other food and drinks.
Planning to move into the bottling facility is Hanley’s Salad Dressing, which currently comes into the incubator two or three times a week, says Sandoz, to meet current demand of 700 gallons a day. Once open, owner Richard Hanley will need only visit twice a month to meet the same demand.
The expansion will also make more room for MJ’s Cafe owner Mary-Brennan Faucheaux, who moved into the incubator last month to create products for a new vegan line she wants to launch in the next few weeks. While she says she hasn’t dealt with any space issues in her short time there, she looks forward to the additional capacity the new facility could ultimately offer for her product.
“I won’t need the bottling with this first product, but I’d like to move into the facility eventually,” Faucheaux says.
With an eye toward expansion, the food incubator announced plans for a new building two years ago, breaking ground on the bottling facility in late 2017. It was originally scheduled to be ready last spring, but Sandoz says they’re still waiting to install the equipment, which was paid for with a $2.5 million Office of Community Development grant. The building, meanwhile, is finished.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated since its original publication to reflect the correct number of Hanley’s Salad Dressing needs to produce per day. Daily Report regrets the error.