After making sweets for family and friends for year, Ruth Flynn launched Mama Roos Comfort Candy in 2014 and joined the Food Incubator a year later. Photography by Allie Apppel
Propped next to Ruth Flynn’s display of her artisan candy is a framed photograph of her son, Matt Flynn, the former LSU quarterback and NFL player who led the Tigers to the 2007 BCS National Championship.
“I shamelessly use him as a prop, and he’s OK with it,” jokes Flynn, a retired teacher from Tyler, Texas. Matt Flynn’s signature also adorns the back of the vintage-style brown bags that hold his mother’s new candy. “It definitely gets people’s attention,” she says.
Whatever the extent of her son’s influence, Flynn is seeing early success with Mama Roos Comfort Candy. It’s one of several confections Flynn made for years for friends and family, and recently began selling through a home-based business she launched in 2014. Sales were strong, and quickly exceeded her production capacity.
“I said, ‘I’m either going to have go big or go home,’” Flynn recalls.
In December 2015, she applied for admission to the Food Incubator for help in converting her cottage operation to larger scale production.
Like many tenants, Flynn brought several ideas to Food Incubator Director Gaye Sandoz. Flynn’s products included her praline “Puddle,” a World War II-era peanut butter fudge she calls Freedom Fudge and a pecan candy her family named Toasties.
Sandoz advised Flynn to focus on the Toasties, a bite-sized roasted pecan and white chocolate confection with a rich buttery flavor. She renamed it Mama Roos, the name given to her by her grandchildren.
“The Food Incubator really helped me translate what I was doing into something that would sell, and helped me see the big picture,” says Flynn.
Sandoz, along with Flynn’s family, helped her create a logo and packaging with a homey general store look. Sandoz also advised her to ask local independent supermarkets to carry the product. Calvin’s Bocage Market, Calandro’s and one location of Maxwell’s Market all quickly agreed. Then, something big happened. Flynn received orders from Rouses, the Thibodaux-based supermarket chain, to sell Mama Roos in 18 of its stores. Flynn now works with New Orleans-based distributor Perrone & Sons to get the products where they need to be.
One of the advantages of a sweet snack like Mama Roos, says Sandoz, is that it tends to be consumed quickly, unlike salad dressing or pickles.
“We’re cooking as fast as we can to make orders,” says Flynn, who sources the pecans from Pointe Coupee grower Bergeron’s. “We make about 450 bags each time we work, which, right now, is about once a week.”
If orders continue to expand, Flynn will likely need to find a co-packer to handle production, she says.
Flynn hopes to eventually develop her other two candies for retail. For now, though, her goal is to make sure bags of Mama Roos move off shelves.
“I’m just going to as many places as I can do demo the product,” Flynn says. “I think I’ve been to every city in Louisiana.”