Portlandia Foods launched it’s first product, organic ketchup, in March 2011, and already their bottles have catapulted across the Portland food cart scene to the Seattle and Eugene markets, all the way south to Roseburg.  Just recently, McMenamins agreed to carry the Portland Ketchup in their iconic Northwest restaurants.  Portlandia Foods co-founders Michael Deal and Jeff Bergadine appear to be poised for strong growth in the coming years.

FAB OREGON did some ketch-in-up with co-owner Jeff Bergadine to learn a little more about the burgeoning start-up and why they choose to manufacture *right* here in Oregon.

Fab:  Why ketchup?
Jeff:  We’ve been in the food service business for 15 years, and thought ketchup would be a simple product to make better than the traditional brands.  Ketchup is just the beginning, and we are coming out with yellow mustard, relish, aeoli mayonnaise, and specialty products like hot & spicy ketchup next.  All our products are organic, and our ketchup is healthier because is contains half the salt and half the sugar of traditional brands.

FAB:  Why make it in Oregon, as opposed to overseas where labor costs are less, etc.?
Jeff:  It’s always a challenge to figure out how to make a product in a cost-effective way and make money, but it never even occurred to us to make it somewhere else.  I’ve been here for 15 years now, originally from Bellingham, and this is home.  It’s about local impact and local spirit.

FAB:  How many bottles do you make each year?
Jeff:  We’ve only been bottling since March, and we’re bottling about 3000 per month right now.  Our ketchups will soon be found in McMenamins, OMSI, Oregon Episcopal Schools.

FAB:  How many employees?
Jeff:  It’s only the two of us right now, and we use a local co-packer.

FAB:  You’ve already answered some of the question ‘How is your ketchup different than Heinz’, so are there any other differences we should know about?
Jeff:  Yes, if you look at our labels, they are branded locally with iconic Oregon images.  We think this makes our bottles more interesting.  We also offer co-branding.  For example, we worked with Kells Irish Pub in downtown Portland to create a unique label all their own.  We want to create symmetry between the food establishment, ourselves, and the consumers.

FAB: What’s the biggest obstacle to manufacturing in Oregon?
Jeff:  For us, Oregon’s tomato growing season is really short, so we have to source some of the paste from Northern California. Additionally, not all the spices are practical to grow in Oregon.  Packaging is also a challenge.  The 3-gallon bags for hot filling are specialized, and can’t be found in Oregon yet, nor the expensive spigots which we have to look to Illinois for.

FAB:  Portlandia….
Jeff:  We picked our name before [the show].  We actually came up with it 6 years ago, and there’s actually a lot of companies with the Portlandia name in there somewhere.  No, we aren’t trying to mock ourselves or anything, but we’re happy to ride the wave.

FAB:  What are your 5 favorite Oregon Made products?
Jeff:  Dulcet Cuisine; Thai & True makes a really good chile sauce; Moonstruck Chocolates; Upright Brewing here in Portland; and Carlton Farms meats.

So where can we find Portland’s own ketchup?  Portlandia Foods has given us a handy location map at http://www.portlandiafoods.com/locations.html.  To find out more, visit:

Portlandia Foods
Portland, Oregon

FAB OREGON is an online guide to what’s made *right* here in Oregon.  Get your local on by visiting us at www.faboregon.com.

Reprint available with permission.