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Matters of Taste

By Andrew Stone
Posted On Jan 15, 2016
Matters of Taste

If your dream kitchen is perennially stocked with small-batch, completely crave-able foods and condiments by America’s best mom-and-pop makers, the tasting boxes from Hatchery.co — and the site’s new marketplace — are totally for you. Meet Hatchery’s CEO and founder Max Friedman.

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It’s been a good few years for small-batch food purveyors and makers of clever, delicious condiments. While yes, there are more people than ever to feed and, yes, there are tons of systemic issues with the food industry as a whole, the public’s appreciation for and insistence upon more worldly flavors and high-quality, trustworthy ingredients have created an opportunity for “little guy” makers to get their products in front of the right people.

Adding to the scenario is the average person’s new reliance upon internet food ordering, meal prep delivery services like Blue Apron and Maple, and sites such as Hatchery (hatchery.co). Think of the latter as a sort of Birchbox for foodies who want to try the latest and finest products from mom-and-pop food purveyors and condiment makers.

Hatchery, which launched in 2013 as “an incubator platform” for purveyors to get their items before a discriminating national audience, is the brainchild of food marketing smartie Max Friedman. He and his team search the country for high-quality items that bring something unique to the gastronomic conversation and are created by brands with their priorities in place. (Think: indie farmers and small-batch makers of items like honey, spreads, sauces, jams, spices, and more.) Here, Max explains his mission, and why the site’s new marketplace is building upon the great success of his subscription tasting boxes.

NEW YOU: Max! Hatchery is such a great concept, and now you’ve got the official marketplace… Why was this arm of Hatchery something you wanted to put into motion?

MAX FRIEDMAN: It just made sense; with so many people enjoying their Tasting Boxes, it was natural for us to see the excitement amassing. We knew that simply sending out monthly boxes wasn’t going to satisfy our members’ cravings. When they find something they love, we want them to be able to access it with as much ease and information as possible, so our Marketplace was born out of necessity more than anything else.

NY: What does it mean to your purveyors to be a part of Hatchery?

MF: When we take on a maker, we take on everything that comes with their business. Whether that means simply providing exposure to a national audience or helping them source packaging or ingredients, we’re all in. Every maker is unique, and is treated that way — no two makers are going to have the same journey, so why force them into a singular system? We love finding new ways to help entrepreneurs gain footing in a community that embraces their practices, and our makers know that from the moment they encounter Hatchery.

NY: What initially inspired your dedication to small-batch food makers and independent farms? And were more consumers to follow suit and support these purveyors, what do you believe would be the outcome?

MF: Our goal has always been to help artisans move their businesses forward and into markets that are actively seeking better quality foods. In the past, I’ve seen so many small businesses fail simply because they were unable to access the resources necessary to help them flourish — that’s what we’re working to change. So far, it’s been an incredible journey of success for all involved. For small-batch food makers, their passion is being lived out every moment of their day; from sourcing their ingredients, to production, to getting out into the market, this is what they truly enjoy doing. More support from more consumers can only help to benefit these makers, and in turn, their communities — which translates to a much larger, national community of conscious-minded consumers.

NY: Walk us through the Tasting Box process — sign up to receipt, the whole experience — and how has the initial concept been made better by the marketplace?

MF: The initial sign-up is one of the most exciting times for our new members — the growing anticipation of not knowing exactly what will arrive at your doorstep is half the fun. All our boxes ship out on the same day each month, so members receive their boxes around the same time, and they start posting their new ingredients all over social media — our makers especially love that part. Opening the box is like celebrating your birthday every month: six individually-wrapped items sit nestled inside our signature red box, which are accompanied by a Tasting Guide, allowing the recipients to read up on the new makers, their products, and even get recipe inspiration for each unique flavor. Accessibility has always been at the forefront of our business, so when people are able to see, smell, and most importantly, taste these ingredients without committing a to full-size jar, it allows for a very organic process to occur. If a member falls in love with a product in their Tasting Box, they can grab it in the Marketplace — and hopefully a few more to share with friends and family! Our Marketplace also allows our makers to showcase multiple of their products, so when a member finds something they like, they have the opportunity to branch out with a maker whose products they know and trust.

NY: How big is your team — and how do you split your time, traveling through?

MF: We currently have ten team members here, all of whom wear various hats, depending on the day and circumstance. We rely heavily on autonomy and collaboration, allowing for a lot of creative experimentation and fun. We all travel at different times, depending on if there are food shows to attend or dinners to host, and the best part is always hearing our team members’ stories when they get back. We especially love when our tasting team returns with new ingredients to try out — mostly because they’re ingredients we’ve never imagined trying, but also because they all come with really interesting and inspiring backstories.

NY: How do you vet these products, and determine them worthy of your distribution?

MF: All products we receive in-house get taste-tasted and voted on by our full team — both for taste as well as whether or not the product qualities adhere to our requirements (i.e. non-GMO, etc.). We also spend a great deal of time interviewing and getting to know the people behind each product. Our decision is often based upon the individual maker’s vision for their business as well as the quality of their products.

NY: What would be a definite “yes” and a total “no” for you in term of product?

MF: A definite “yes” is a product that shows versatility—something that can be used far outside its conventional uses. A definite “no” is anything with a long list of ingredients we can’t pronounce.

NY: What are some of your personal-use favorites from the various products?

MF: It’s so hard to pick favorites, but right now I’m really hooked on Crunch Dynasty, Formosa Chipotle Hot Sauce, and Dona Chai Tea Concentrate!


Photo Credit: Hatchery.co