I stumbled across the phenomenon that I documented in a Gourmet News story called “Incubating Greatness in Shared Kitchen Spaces,” and it turned out to be a very fulfilling adventure. It started when I called some folks who’d become finalists for sofi Awards, the Specialty Food Association’s award for product innovation, and Kendra Coggin, the maker of Pernicious Pickling Company’s Pickled Carrots: Ginger & Spice, told me that she was making her pickled products in an incubator kitchen in Costa Mesa, California. Then I talked to Laurie Pauker of Laurie & Sons, who went on to win a sofi Award for her Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Chocolate Toffee, and she told me that she also was working in an incubator kitchen. And then, at the Summer Fancy Food Show this year, I met the folks from Pipsnacks, whose Kettle Pipcorn won a sofi Award in the sweet snack category, and was told that their company had started in an incubator kitchen, moved into a second incubator as it grew, and was just about to move into its own space. By then it was more than clear that something very interesting is going on.
These kitchen incubators are structured to fill the gap between a cottage industry food producer and a business that’s ready to expand into regional sales — a gap that’s caused by the capital requirements of setting up in business to sell food to strangers. As you can read in the article, some of them are publicly funded, some are privately-owned, and they offer a range of facilities and services from simple rentals of processing kitchen space to one-stop-shops offering an array of educational and consulting services along with physical space.