THE RETAIL VIEW: Major retailer and famous chef get behind
By Tim Linden
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, CA — You can't do a whole
lot better than having one of the nation's premier chefs,
as well as one of the country's largest retailers, behind
the introduction of a new squash.
If New Zealand's Buttercup squash doesn't make it in
the U.S. marketplace, it won't be because of lack of
exposure. The product was introduced primarily on the
West Coast during the last week of March with Chef Paul
Prudhomme touting its great flavor at the Golden Gate
Produce Terminal, here, and at the Safeway company headquarters
in Pleasanton, CA. The chef's appearances received good
play in the local press and he was featured on a nationally
syndicated food show hosted by The Produce Pair.
In addition, Safeway gave the new squash ample space
in many of its stores, selling the product cut in half,
wrapped in plastic wrap with a Chef Prudhomme spice
|The program was pulled together by the Renaissance Food
Group LLC, the Sacramento, CA-based exclusive North American
importer of the overwrapped product.
Renaissance President and CEO Jim Catchot said that
the proprietary Buttercup squash arrived on the West
Coast of the United States by ship in late March. "We
brought over about 100 bins and will be marketing it
for the next 10 weeks." Safeway will be the predominant
retail vehicle, with the product being featured in major
West Coast cities as well as Phoenix.
Phil Fendyan of the Renaissance Food Group was responsible
for putting the initial promotion together. During the
San Francisco wholesale market event on April 2, he told
The Produce News that the various components to the program
literally jumped at the opportunity. "We got connected
with Chef Prudhomme and he was excited about the opportunity.
Everything just came together."
Mr. Prudhomme requested a few cases and then spent the
better part of a week developing recipes. "I played
around with about 100 different recipes," he said. "It
was actually very easy to work with because it has good
flavor and it related well to recipes that I have developed
for the sweet potato, or the yam as we call it [in New
|Besides being an accomplished chef, Mr. Prudhomme runs
his own food company, which specializes in the packaging
and selling of many different spices and sauces at the
retail level, featuring his name and likeness. He got involved
in this effort "because I love food, I love to cook,
and Safeway is a good customer of mine."
Like any other food marketer, this gave Mr. Prudhomme
the opportunity to interact with a major retailer. His
Northern California appearances also gave him the opportunity
to tout his own products as he was talking about New
Zealand Buttercup squash.
Dan "the Produce Man" & "Guido the Gardener" are
The Produce Pair as they interview Chef Paul Prudhomme at
Bay Area Herbs South San Francisco Produce Market
|During the radio show taped on the South San Francisco
market dock of Bay Area Herbs & Specialties, owned and
operated by Steve Hurwitz, Chef Prudhomme cooked and passed
out samples of one of the New Zealand squash dishes. The
Buttercup and ham medley was a hit for the show's hosts as
well as the salesmen, buyers and warehousemen that passed
by. The product featured numerous items including Chef Paul
Prudhomme's Vegetable Magic.
Sounding a bit like Paul Prudhomme himself, Mr. Catchot
said that the Buttercup squash has a "real sweet,
velvety, rich flavor." By look, it resembles a butternut
squash with its hard shell and dark color.
|Though the chef seemed like a natural as he pushed the
various proprietary elements of this particular recipe, he
told The Produce News that this is the first time he had
ever done this type of appearance. His participation was
covered by his own firm as was the development of the Buttercup
squash cookbook, a 12-page pamphlet with nine different recipes
featuring herbs from Chef Prudhomme's company, Magic Seasonings
Blends Inc. in New Orleans.
The famous chef said that he loves to develop recipes
with vegetables as they are one of the main ingredients
at his famous K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans. "Of
course you have to have meat dishes because that is what
people will pay for, but I love cooking with vegetables.
We have no freezer at our restaurant because we only use
Reached just a few days after the promotional appearances,
Mr. Catchot said that Renaissance was very pleased with
the publicity generated by the chef and efforts by Safeway
to promote the new squash. Food page press releases had
been sent to various local newspapers, and Renaissance
was expecting good play there also. He said it was still
too early to gauge the success of the program, but he was
clearly expecting big results.
Mr. Catchot said that the Buttercup squash has been very
successfully introduced in Japan, which currently takes
the bulk of New Zealand's output. He expects to build on
this year's efforts and have more supplies and greater
distribution in 2005.