Now Branding | The Next Big Small
Tuesday night, upstairs at the bistro Ici, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, a handful of hopefuls pushed snacks upon invitation-only guests and waited for the passing of judgment. One of them would take home the “I’m a Winner” trophy and, more important, win the consulting expertise of the Rooster Design Group. It was the culmination of the company’s first “The Next Big Small Brand Contest for Culinary Genius.”
Rooster’s founders, Fernando Music and Fran Gaitanaros, had canvassed the 140 local applicants and winnowed the field down to the final five. They got all kinds. “We had some real head-scratchers,” Music mused. “Insects as nutritional supplements, positioned as a food that was borderline vegetarian. The insect ingredient would either be ground or mixed into the food product whole to make it more accessible and digestible. We also had a team with a perfectly nice product, good flavor profile, but one of the presenters was drunk … that was pretty dark.”
Fortunately there were no winged things served at the event. Instead, there were unusually velvety Tipsy Truffles and smile-inducing Wild Honey & Corn Nougat from Beth Kimmerle’s Catskill Confections; Cinammon Sugar Butter from team Better Butter;Plowshares Coffee Roasters’ cups of joe brewed from ethically sourced and eco-polite beans; pleasantly chewy, bacon-like orange-ginger strips of smoke-cured, grass-fed beef from Bklyn Batch Craft Jerky; and Kombucha Brooklyn’s (KBBK) pleasantly mild iteration of the fermented tea.
Glad I wasn’t a judge. I would have voted with my sweet tooth, which was easily swayed by Kimmerle’s Chocolate Perkies; they fall somewhere between caramel and fudge and are infused with locally roasted coffee. The criteria, however, called for much more brainpower and objectivity. Design opportunity, enthusiasm, market share and opportunity for impact all required consideration.
In the end, it came down to the Brooklynites: the jerky boys and the kombucha man. The former won the people’s choice award; the latter, the prize. Eric Childs, the man behind the ‘bucha, was over the moon, because a well-positioned product will hopefully mean that he and his business partner Rick Miller can open a larger, full-time brewery and, finally, make their first dollar on the stuff.
Next fall, Rooster will repeat the contest, so start working on your products. Childs offers classes in home brewing should you want to get in on the kombucha action. That probably won’t win you the title, though. Chocolate-dipped spiders, anyone?
Clipped by Beth from New York Times, T Magazine