AgCenter sets up food business incubator
BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU AgCenter is in the process of establishing a food business incubator and has hired a veteran food consultant to coordinate it.
Gaye Sandoz — who has 37 years of experience in the food processing business, most recently with Edible Enterprises in Norco — started working for the AgCenter this month and hopes to see the new food incubator fully developed over the next 12 months.
“I’ve already been getting inquiries from interested tenants,” Sandoz said.
The AgCenter’s incubator will be only the second such facility in the state; the other is Edible Enterprises. Strategically located on the Baton Rouge campus, the new incubator will be able to draw upon many educational resources including the Department of Food Science, said John Russin, vice chancellor for research at the LSU AgCenter.
“The tenants will have ready access to the expertise of our food science faculty and their students,” Russin said, adding that students will be able to get real-world experience.
Initial funding for the business incubator will come from the reallocation of internal resources, but Russin expects to attract economic development grant funding, and the tenants will pay rent.
The food incubator will be equipped with state-of-the-art kitchens and laboratories in which the start-up businesses can perfect and develop their products.
“It normally takes five or six years from inception of an idea to really seeing a profit for a small food business,” Sandoz said. “The AgCenter food incubator will be able to shorten this time considerably, offering resources, contacts and marketing assistance.”
The tenants will not have the burden of start-up costs, which include major equipment purchases. Once the businesses start turning profits, they will be able to move out of the incubator and into other facilities.
Sandoz will help the start-up businesses make contacts with suppliers and vendors. The businesses will develop their business plans with assistance from LSU’s Louisiana Business & Technology Center.
“The goal is to prepare these new Louisiana food companies to sell to grocery stores, in institutional facilities or in farmer’s markets,” Sandoz said.
Sandoz said the incubator will also be a resource for Louisiana restaurants to produce and develop their specialty products, helping them to market these products in the wholesale market.
“Restaurants can’t sell the products prepared in their restaurants in grocery stores,” Sandoz said, adding that these products have to be prepared off-site to meet the requirements of the law.
Some of the products expected for the incubator include baked goods, sauces, soups and snacks, Sandoz said.
She will also be organizing workshops for food business entrepreneurs interested in expanding their opportunities.
“We hope to start our educational program in the next couple of months,” Sandoz said.
Anyone interested in finding out more information about the AgCenter’s food incubator can contact Sandoz at 225-252-7162 or firstname.lastname@example.org.