When Tracy Blanchard tells prospective retailers about her new shrimp dip, she makes sure to mention that party hosts can mix it with rice or add it to hollowed-out green peppers before roasting. But the Charleston entrepreneur knows most of her customers won't bother with recipes this Super Bowl Sunday.
"I think the beauty is just being able to open it up and serve it," Blanchard says.
Blanchard and her husband, Tony, last year launched Big T Coastal Provisions as a financial breakwater after the recession took down Tony Blanchard's seafood shop. Soon after debuting their crab dip in a few stores, the Blanchards won contracts with major supermarket chains, putting their product in 800 stores nationwide. Their newest buyer, Giant, is slated to add another 400 stores to the tally within a month.
"We're increasing our footprint up the coast," Blanchard says proudly.
The company growth spurt has taught Blanchard a number of lessons about the food industry: In the past year, she's become well-versed in co-packing; grocery logistics and the seafood trade.
For example, while the crab dip was inspired by a longstanding family recipe, the shrimp dip, scheduled for release this week, was developed in response to market trends.
"Shrimp is the number one seafood choice among Americans, so it has the same chance or better (to succeed)," explains Blanchard, who quickly grasped there wasn't much space for sentimentality in the rough world of commercial dips.
"I had always made shrimp dip," says Blanchard, who initially planned to convert her recipe for mass-production, just as her husband had adapted a decades-old preparation for the crab dip. "But the genesis for what it is now came from the Harris Teeter buyer. He said, 'Why don't you just use your crab dip base?'"
So they did, adding lemon and horseradish.
And while the Blanchards tasted manifold shrimp before selecting a dealer, they knew from the start that they couldn't maintain their $6.99-per-tub (8 ounces) price point if they used domestic seafood. "I wish I could say it was local, but there's no way we could make an affordable product," Blanchard says. The shrimp is sourced from Thailand, while the crab still comes from Mexico.
Not every store that carries the crab dip and jalapeno crab dip, added to the line in November, has signed on for the shrimp dip. But "thankfully, with Harris Teeter, they are automatically taking us on," Blanchard says.
Big T Coastal Provisions dips are also available online at bigtcoastalprovisions.com.
Reach Hanna Raskin at 937-5560.