Browse Tag

food and beverage

3 mins read

A Taste of Tradition: Chilau Foods Brings Southern Flavors Home

Chilau Foods, founded by Michael Anderson, is a company built on a love of family, tradition, and of course, delicious food.

Inspired by his grandmother’s legendary crab stew, Michael set out to recreate those heartwarming flavors and share them with a wider audience.

chilau foods
Michael with Grandmother, Minnie Hallback

The journey didn’t stop at just replicating one recipe. As Michael explored stews from other Southern regions, he discovered a common thread – similar ingredients and flavor profiles. This became the foundation for Chilau Foods’ product line: Southern-inspired stew bases that simplify cooking without compromising on bold, authentic flavors.

Quality and Sustainability at the Core

Chilau Foods prioritizes using high-quality ingredients. Michael meticulously vets suppliers to ensure every ingredient meets their standards for quality and sustainability. They understand that consumers are increasingly health-conscious and want to know what’s in their food.

As a family-focused brand, Michael wouldn’t put anything in their products that he wouldn’t feed his own family. While local sourcing is important, Chilau Foods recognizes that some unique ingredients come from specific regions. Their focus is on building trust with suppliers and ensuring responsible sourcing practices to deliver delicious and sustainable products.

chilau foods

Reaching New Customers

Chilau Foods is committed to reaching new customers. They leverage content marketing and social media to build brand awareness and connect with consumers. Sharing recipes, cooking tips, and behind-the-scenes glimpses allows them to build a strong connection with their audience.

Trade shows are another key strategy. These events provide a platform to showcase products, network with industry leaders, and secure new retail partnerships. This combination of digital and in-person efforts is propelling Chilau Foods’ growth and introducing their products to a wider audience.

chilau foods

Maintaining Consistency Across Locations

With a growing presence in stores, Chilau Foods prioritizes maintaining consistent product quality. They’ve built a strong relationship with their manufacturing partner to ensure every jar meets their high standards. Additionally, partnerships with top distributors like UNFI and KeHE allow for consistent delivery and execution across locations, guaranteeing customers receive the best Chilau Foods experience every time.

The Future of Chilau Foods

Michael’s current focus is on expanding their presence in the Soup Bouillon category and reaching new regions across the country. They see potential in offering their unique approach to cooking solutions in adjacent aisles, bringing convenience and bold flavors to new categories.

The long-term vision is to offer a range of products that celebrate the rich Southern seasoning traditions across multiple aisles. Chilau Foods recognizes America’s diverse culinary landscape and aims to bring a taste of the South that resonates with multiple cultures while staying true to its roots.

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16 mins read

Pescavore: A Journey from Aerospace Engineering to Sustainable Seafood Snacks

Pescavore is a seafood snack brand that is passionate about providing consumers with healthy products that are sourced responsibly and ethically.

In this interview, Clarice Owens, co-founder and CTO of Healthy Oceans Seafood Company, producer of Pescavore, discusses her inspiration for starting the company, the challenges and rewards of promoting sustainability in the seafood industry, and her vision for the company’s future.

Clarice Owens, co-founder and CTO of Healthy Oceans Seafood Company

What was the inspiration behind starting Pescavore?

In 2013, I accompanied my husband, Matt, on a business trip to a remote part of the Pacific known as the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Matt’s work revolves around protecting the world’s tuna fisheries while ensuring the well-being of the people who rely on them. During our stay, we stumbled upon a hidden gem in the hotel gift shop – marlin jerky, crafted by the families of the Marshall Islands Marine Resource Authority. We savored this delectable fish jerky throughout our trip and returned home with curiosity about why this nutritious protein wasn’t more readily available in the United States.

My career journey began in Aerospace Engineering, where I made significant contributions to top-tier technology companies such as Boeing (working on the F22 Raptor), Solar Turbines (developing CARB compliant gas turbine engines), and Bloom Energy (advancing solid oxide fuel cells).

However, as an underrepresented Black woman in a STEM field working in Silicon Valley, I became disheartened by the limitations I encountered. I very much yearned for opportunities to make a more substantial impact and unburden myself from the constraints imposed by discrimination.

Healthy Oceans Seafood Company and then, in turn, Pescavore quickly became the platform for Matt and me to merge our expertise and interests. The product of years of vision, dedication, and hard work – Pescavore has evolved into our family-owned and operated business, positioned at the crossroads of food technology, environmental sustainability, social activism, and ocean stewardship. The Company serves as a testament to our resolute commitment to making a meaningful impact and forcing disruptive change all while leading an inspired life.

How do you ensure that your products are sourced using sustainable fishing methods, and how do you work with fishermen to protect marine ecosystems?

Thanks to substantial investments and effective regulations, the United States is at the forefront of responsible fisheries management. With the second-largest exclusive economic zone in the world, we have access to a significant volume of sustainable seafood products that we can source domestically.

Our journey began with California-caught “ahi,” which is responsibly sourced yellowfin tuna from a fishery certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. The catch is brought into San Pedro, just South of Los Angeles, and the tuna is harvested using the eco-friendly method of free school purse seining from small-scale vessels. This method, recognized by organizations like Greenpeace and Seafood Watch, is one of the most responsible and environmentally friendly ways to catch tuna.

There are very few fisheries like it worldwide, the other one being in New Zealand, another global leader in responsible fisheries management. We’ve established direct partnerships with the fourth-generation families who own and responsibly operate these vessels.

In the coming months, we have plans to introduce wild Alaskan salmon, which is another plentiful and sustainably sourced domestic seafood option. Additionally, we’re exploring opportunities to work with invasives like Dogfish, a voracious shark responsible for ecosystem decline in the Gulf of Maine. Beyond the branded Pescavore endeavors, our mission also encompasses addressing the nutritional requirements of vulnerable populations by offering meticulously designed and cost-effective, safe, and value-added seafood solutions.

Unfortunately, over 90% of the seafood consumed in the United States today is imported, with approximately 35% of it caught here, processed abroad, and then returned for consumption. These approaches not only carry a substantial carbon footprint but also make the supply chain vulnerable to issues like poor traceability, fraud, and various social and environmental problems, including human rights abuses in poorly regulated foreign seafood supply chains.

Our goal is to raise awareness and promote demand for locally sourced and responsibly harvested seafood products, ultimately contributing to the health of our oceans and the resilience of the coastal communities that we call home.


What challenges have you faced in promoting sustainability and ethical sourcing in the seafood industry, and how have you worked to overcome them?

Every venture has an impact, both positive and negative. We’ve dedicated ourselves to creating innovative and progressive products while establishing responsible and licensed supply chains that not only benefit our brand but also elevate the entire sustainable seafood industry. It’s crucial to recognize that the ocean covers over 70% of our planet’s surface. With the global population heading towards an overwhelming 9.85 billion, and the limited arable land available to produce enough food for this growing population, it’s evident that the ocean and real seafood products have a fundamental role to play in feeding the world.

Wild seafood, in particular, offers an environmentally friendly advantage, with a carbon footprint up to 95% lower than other animal-based alternatives. The latest estimates suggest we could be harvesting 16 million more tonnes of seafood each year if global fisheries were better managed. Here in the US, in addition to an over-reliance on foreign imports, consumption has been in cyclical decline owing to poor seafood literacy and a troubling culture of misinformation largely emanating from fear-mongering and unethical, anticompetitive tactics from competitors in the so-called “plant-based” sector.

We believe it is in everyone’s best interest to help educate consumers as to the presence and value of wild, farmed, and potentially even cultivated seafood products while helping to boost demand for sustainable and planet-positive proteins. These market-based strategies help to reduce demand for less environmentally sound protein alternatives, like factory-farmed meat products and unethical or poorly traced sources of seafood. It’s an exciting time to be engaged in this work. The seafood industry has seen very little real innovation and remains ripe for disruption.

It hasn’t been all positive. Our relentless commitment and community engagement over the past decade have made a significant impact. However, it’s disheartening to see that not all new entrants in this market share our commitment to responsibility. Some adopt our rhetoric and even our origin story without putting in the work to ensure the responsible sourcing of their products, safe and sanitary supply chains that protect consumer health, honest and transparent communication regarding health attributes and environmental impacts. And/or declining to help build capacity that promotes economic progress, especially for fishermen.

Our advice to retailers and supply chain participants is to scrutinize market entrants carefully to ensure that they follow through with their claims. This includes everything from dolphin safety and verifying the country of origin to ensuring that the facilities producing the products are properly licensed and have ethical supply chains. It also means understanding the carbon footprint of different products, both in terms of their packaging lifecycle and the carbon intensity of supply chains. It’s a collective effort and shared responsibility of all market participants to not only ensure a sustainable future for the seafood industry but to also enforce a culture of transparency and fair dealing that protects consumers and promotes a fair and free marketplace.

From a social perspective, calls for greater ethnic and gender inclusion within the seafood industry are gaining momentum. Historically, this sector has been disproportionately represented by men of European descent and woefully underrepresented by ethnic minorities – especially in positions of leadership. However, it’s crucial that the investments made in these equity-enhancing efforts are directed towards individuals and organizations with a proven track record in creating real opportunities and driving meaningful change. Broad-based, performative platitudes that are devoid of tangible action serve no legitimate purpose.

Regrettably, the loudest voices aren’t always the ones making the most significant impacts. Those genuinely committed to fostering and investing in equity should proceed with care and discernment as genuine progress towards diversity and inclusion demands thoughtful and deliberate action, led by those who have a history of producing tangible results and with a view toward the organization looking internally and rooting out bias and prejudice.

We are deeply intentional about equity within our organization, providing opportunities for our staff and partners to thrive. For instance, as a founding principle, our business seeks to provide job opportunities to disadvantaged and marginalized populations who we, in turn, lift through employment and training opportunities that promote professional leadership development.

Beyond delivering direct human capital to our own business, we are also contributing to our community by investing in and enabling a workforce with skill sets that will vastly and positively differentiate the competitiveness of the US and California food production workforce. Such commitments have gained us well-deserved and distinguished recognition and investment by the USDA among others.

Ultimately, for the seafood and the food industry more broadly to deliver its promise, those with the power to create the future must unlearn systematic racism, acknowledge disparity, and amplify BIPOC leaders. Not only is representation and inclusion rational and just, but it also delivers the types of dividends that are essential to maximizing value and profits while creating a more just and rational society.


What advice would you give to individuals considering launching a startup, especially in the food industry?

My advice is to “slow down to go fast.” It’s important to understand that products entering the market with the capacity to address pain points while establishing responsible supply chains can generate value that benefits society, the environment, and economic growth. Conversely, introducing products into fiercely competitive markets without delivering substantial solutions or that come from irresponsible supply chains can be counterproductive to positive growth, especially when these products heavily rely on venture capital and private equity funding that often prioritizes performance at any cost, hindering progress.

While capital markets are rapidly evolving to better assess true value, entrepreneurs should also focus on creating products that improve the lives of Americans, such as addressing underserved populations, while taking into account the genuine environmental and social footprint of their products and services. Assessing impact should always be from a position of honesty, and transparency, and from direct sector expertise, applicable, and direct knowledge of the subject field, and 3rd party endorsement.

Designing with intent and considering defensibility is key to generating substantial value for both the enterprise and society at large. I recommend reading three books for valuable insights: “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future,” and “Ramping Your Brand: How to Ride the Killer CPG Growth Curve.”

What are your plans for expanding the availability of your products in the future?

We launched the brand in September of 2018 but had many challenges to overcome to be ready to scale. Last year, we commissioned our first manufacturing plant right here in the beautiful seaside community of Santa Cruz, California – a stone’s throw from the historic Monterey Cannery Row. We have, in turn, grown our footprint into key customers like Safeway, Target, and REI. We are now gaining retail commitments that put us on a clear course to maximize the utilization of our current plant.

Our next steps involve applying the insights we’ve gained here to expand our reach across the entire country – making our products available wherever jerky is sold. Ultimately, we aim to address global markets by establishing a platform and replicable model of distributed, responsible capacity, all while offering premium products that can drive positive social and environmental change.

by Tony O. Lawson

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3 mins read

Uncle Nearest Acquires French Vineyard to Launch Cognac Brand

In a move that is sure to shake up the cognac industry, Uncle Nearest, the most-awarded Bourbon and American Whiskey company of 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022, has acquired Domaine Saint Martin, a 100-acre estate in Cognac, France, with 50 acres of vineyards dedicated to the Grande Champagne appellation. This acquisition makes Uncle Nearest the largest Grande Champagne vineyard owner in the city of Cognac.

The Grande Champagne appellation is the most prestigious in Cognac, and it is known for producing the highest quality cognacs. The grapes from the Grande Champagne region are known for their high acidity and minerality, which gives the resulting cognacs their complex flavors and aromas.

“The Uncle Nearest brand thrives on its profound story of love, honor, respect, and heritage. Our mission in Cognac echoes this essence,” remarked Fawn Weaver, Uncle Nearest Founder and CEO.

Throughout the past year, Weaver and her team, involving key spirits industry figures, have delved deep into Cognac’s roots, extracting groundbreaking insights which she believes will captivate global audiences.

“Our brand strategy pivots from the norm. We are unveiling a short film first at several film festivals, then launching the brand,” teased Weaver, hinting at an exploration of Cognac’s history that surpasses even Uncle Nearest’s meticulous research standards. This cinematic portrayal of Cognac’s ascent across America, Europe, and Asia will be narrated by award-winning actor Jeffrey Wright, with filming commencing this Spring.

Uncle Nearest plans to use the grapes from its vineyards to produce a new line of cognacs that will be released in the coming years. The company has also announced that it will be investing in the Domaine Saint Martin estate to improve the vineyards and the distillery.

The acquisition of Domaine Saint Martin marks a pivotal moment for Uncle Nearest, granting the company full control over the cognac production process, from grape to glass. This pivotal control ensures the highest quality standards for their cognacs.

Furthermore, this acquisition underscores Uncle Nearest’s unwavering dedication to the cognac market, demonstrating a long-term commitment and a sincere intention to emerge as a prominent player in the industry.

Notably, Uncle Nearest’s acquisition of Domaine Saint Martin is a groundbreaking event in the cognac industry, marking the first instance of an American company taking ownership of a significant cognac estate.

This acquisition coincides with a transformative phase in the cognac sector dominated by a small number of large companies. These companies have traditionally focused on producing cognacs for the mass market. However, in recent years, there has been a growing demand for premium cognacs.

Uncle Nearest is now well-positioned to capitalize on this growing demand.

by Tony O. Lawson

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7 mins read

23 Year Old Entrepreneur Launches Bottled Alkaline Water Company

In an era where health-conscious consumers are increasingly seeking hydration solutions that not only quench their thirst but also nourish their bodies, the bottled water industry has witnessed a significant transformation.

One particular trend has been the rise of alkaline water, acclaimed for its potential health benefits. The US bottled alkaline water market is expected to reach $2.8 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 11.5% from 2022 to 2027.

In this interview, we speak with 23-year-old Augustine Amoakohene, the co-founder of Augi Water, to learn more about his journey from streetwear aficionado to health-conscious entrepreneur.

What inspired you to create Augi Water and enter the alkaline water market?

In short, my mother and my interest in streetwear and high fashion inspired me to create Augi Water. One of my many idols is Virgil Abloh, who has a strong influence in high fashion and streetwear, or the culture language, which has been a hobby of mine since a very young age.

At 10 years old, Supreme was the brand that opened my interest in streetwear. As I grew older, my interest in high fashion was triggered by my mother, as I accompanied her during her shopping sprees. Not only do I credit her for her ability to spot trends and be fashionable, but she also exposed me to the understanding that health is the most important component of wealth by constantly consuming premium-grade water, such as Fiji and Evian. Taking note of this habit is what subconsciously brought Augi Water to life.

What makes Augi Water stand out from other alkaline water brands in the competitive market?

Augi Water differentiates itself from other alkaline bottled water because we are not just a bottled water brand, we are everything a bottled water brand entails and more. Of course, our mission promotes the consumption of high-quality alkaline water and understanding the many health benefits of alkaline water.

In addition to the importance of sustainability, we exceed minimal sustainability efforts by utilizing our landfill biodegradable bottles. However, just as important as the functional benefits, Augi Water has developed a bottled water brand that has attached itself to streetwear, high fashion, and current culture trends, attracting a new customer group and conclusively inspiring a new generation of bottled water drinkers; Blurring the lines between a lifestyle and a bottled water brand. For clarity, think of us as the Balenciaga of water.

What strategies have driven your nationwide retail partnerships, and how do you plan to expand further?

Persistence, dedication, and faith are the strategies that have driven my current retail partnerships. Augi Water is not a venture-back start-up, with the ability to call on an investor who can provide additional funding or has a pre-existing relationship with retailers.

Therefore, every retail partnership established has been on my own through communication with these company’s decision-makers. When given the opportunity, I executed sharing the mission behind the brand with category managers and buyers, who I believe appreciate my mission and aptitude.

As with any start-up founder, I plan to expand further by maintaining relationships and pushing forward new outreach with retailers’ decision-makers, leaning heavily on self-introduction and introductions from existing distribution partners. I also intend to look for the involvement of brokerage firms and/or hire personnel with existing retailer relationships.

What unique relationships or partnerships have you developed that you feel will help grow your business?

There are several relationships I believe will benefit the growth of Augi Water. The ones I think will be the most impactful, initially, are Matthew Odunuyi, Nick Jarjour, Chief Keef, Lil Uzi Vert, and select beverage team members at GoPuff. All of these individuals play unique roles in past and upcoming opportunities.

What challenges have you faced as a young entrepreneur?

A shorter question to answer is what challenges haven’t I faced as a young entrepreneur? I feel like I have encountered every challenge there is as a young entrepreneur. The beauty of it all is that Augi Water is still thriving. Did you know that the average age of a successful start-up founder is 45 years old?

Being overlooked or brushed off and told to come back at another time due to my age is the challenge that bothers me the most. As a result of my age and or lack of experience, some retail buyers and investors are questionable about my brand’s ability to perform. I can only continue to push forward and work hard enough to be an outlier of statistics for the average age of a start-up founder.

augi water

Where do you see the company in the next 5 years?

In the next five years, I see Augi Water’s availability in 75-90% of large chain retailers accessible throughout the United States. At that time, I would love to see the company in discussion with potential acquirers.

What advice would you give other entrepreneurs interested in starting a beverage brand?

My advice to others would be to remain persistent with outreach to retailers. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. A great quote to reflect on is one by Saint Augustine, ” Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”

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8 mins read

Uncle Nearest Whiskey’s Rise to Success: Insights from Master Blender Victoria Eady Butler

Victoria Eady Butler, an award-winning whiskey master blender and the great-great-granddaughter of Nearest Green, is an instrumental figure behind Uncle Nearest, Inc., the fastest-growing whiskey brand in U.S. history.

Initially joining the team as the VP of Administration in March 2019, she was later appointed as the distillery’s Master Blender, combining her family legacy with her passion for blending.

Victoria Eady Butler

In this interview, she shares her career experiences and insights into the whiskey industry, including the success and growth of Uncle Nearest. She also touches on the industry’s evolving trends and challenges and gives a sneak peek into exciting new initiatives and products in the pipeline for the brand.

Victoria Eady Butler

What is it like to be a direct descendant of Nathan “Nearest” Green, and how has his legacy influenced your work with Uncle Nearest Whiskey?

It is the most rewarding experience imaginable. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and still in awe of the rich legacy that my great-great grandfather carved out; especially given that when he started distilling, he was not a free man. In spite of the challenges that surely came with being enslaved, Nearest Green was a creative man who crafted some of the best whiskey around.

I am extremely proud of my heritage and grateful to continue what he started. My work wouldn’t even be possible had it not been for my great-great-grandfather who laid the cornerstone for everything I do regarding blending. The whiskey is a byproduct of who we are. Nearest Green not only made whiskey, but made history.

Can you share any insights or lessons you’ve learned from your work as a master blender, and how this has influenced your perspective on the whiskey industry?

Coming into spirits, I knew very little about the industry, so I started reading and learning all I could from my team members, my whiskey family, and others in the industry. If the spirits industry is something you really have an interest in and a passion for, I think you just have to go for it.

Fawn Weaver didn’t know a thing about making whiskey. She was not in the industry prior to Uncle Nearest. She enjoyed a glass of whiskey, but she didn’t know anything about distilling, and look at where our brand is today. You have to be committed, dedicated, eager to learn, and put everything you hold dear into it. You’ve got to surround yourself with people who are knowledgeable, patient, and in my case, those who are very kind.

My team members embraced me knowing that I didn’t come from the spirits industry. They’ve shown me so much grace and patience. I have learned so much from them. The biggest thing is setting aside your fear of failure and going for it.

In 2022, Uncle Nearest achieved sales exceeding $100 million, and the company is projected to double its revenue by the end of 2023. What do you think has been the key factor in Uncle Nearest’s success and rapid growth over the past year?

Everything we do starts at the top with our CEO, Fawn Weaver. She is the most creative, strategic and innovative person I’ve ever worked alongside. Even with an accelerated pace, everything we have done has been well-planned. When it’s executed, it’s done with excellence or not at all.

What are some of your favorite whiskey cocktails or pairings, and why?

How I drink Uncle Nearest depends on the atmosphere. I love a neat pour while enjoying a good cigar. I also enjoy drinking a well-balanced Uncle Nearest cocktail with the company of family and friends. My favorite cocktail of late is a Classic Daiquiri made with Uncle Nearest 1884.

Can you share with us a memorable experience or achievement from your career in the whiskey industry that you are particularly proud of?

It was very exciting to go into the lab for the very first time and face 31 or 36 samples of whiskey for me to decide which ones would go into the blending process. It was very exciting then –– and it still is! The nerves are gone, but the excitement is there every time I blend.

Being named Master Blender of the Year four times over was also a tremendous honor. Every award, accolade, and honor we receive furthers Nearest Green’s legacy. We are grateful for each one.

How do you see the whiskey industry evolving in the coming years, and what do you think will be the biggest trends or challenges?

I think everyone in the industry should take note that more females are now drinking whiskey and bourbon. Our team has never targeted a particular demographic, but we have taken note of the upward tick in female consumers. I also hope to see more people of color in positions that are visible like master distiller, master blender- people in decision-making roles. I’d like to see more women in those positions as well. We’re already seeing a shift and it’s beautiful!

Can you tell us about any new products or initiatives that Uncle Nearest has in the works, and how you plan to build on your recent success?

There are several exciting things happening with the brand right now, including our CEO Fawn’s Thank You Tour. This year she is spending 4 months visiting our military bases thanking our troops for both their service and their unwavering support of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey.

We also just hosted the first Spirits on the Rise Summit, an event presented by the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative. It was a day and a half of emerging brands networking, learning, and presenting to top investors, bankers, distributors, and more. This is the first event of its kind, and we are really proud of the work our initiative continues to do.

Lastly, our Straight Rye is continuing to roll out throughout the United States, and I have really enjoyed adding that to my tastings when I go from city to city. The excitement around the rye is palpable, and we know it will help us continue to add to our long list of top awards.

by Tony O. Lawson

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