Pepperlane Products on road to growth
June 19, 2012
Pepperlane Products, the Wanship-based jalapeno preserves company, got its start in borrowed spaces, the rented out kitchens of Summit County country clubs and seasonal restaurants. Twenty-two years later, the company’s three partners are now settling into a brand new facility where every day batches of jalapeno-infused jellies, self-described condiments with a kick, are made.
The new building was completed earlier this year, a major step forward in helping the growing business offer more product to distributors from California to Georgia. But before the product was picked up by its distributors, it was a Christmas present for neighbors, a jelly handmade by company founder Michele Trover.
"I started giving it out to friends and neighbors for Christmas with a block of cream cheese," Trover said. "More and more people became interested in it, and I thought why not sell it."
"For a long time, I did it by myself," she added. "I was doing every step from buying it to making it to labeling it to putting the fabric top on top."
In 1990, Trover started to develop her popular recipe into an actual business plan. The Park City Farmer’s Market was one of the first locations she sold the jams where it quickly became a staple of the market. Since then, the business has expanded, even though Trevor still makes a point to be at the local market where she got her start. Pepperlane Products can be found in Whole Foods and Harmon’s, at Dan’s Market and Fresh Market Stores.
"I’ve tried and failed many a batch," Trover said, "but when something comes out that’s good and you get that positive response back, there’s nothing else like it."
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2009, Trover’s two partners Sandra and Rod Weese joined the team and efforts to expand were set into high gear. Sandra and Rod Weese traveled to grocery stores across the state handing out samples and trying to get the company’s products on shelves. The jellies are sold as condiments, dipping sauces, marinades and glazes. A recipe book published last year suggests using the jellies in salsa and meatloaf, tarts and stir fry.
"We literally put cases of the jelly in our car and for two months started taking it into stores and trying to get more stores to carry it," said Sandra Weese. "When we started heading south, our first stop was Payson and we were so well received. They bought five cases right out of the back of our car. The whole trip went like that, on and on and on."
The jalapeno jellies were selling. The business was growing, growing so much that the industrial kitchen specially installed in Trevor’s home for Pepperlane Products was struggling to keep up with the demand.
"You have to taste our product in order to really know what it is," Weese added. "When you look at a Wheat Thin box, you have an idea of what it will taste like. You look at milk and you know what that will taste like. Even raspberry jelly, you know what that will taste like. But what does a jalapeno preserve taste like?"
As more stores began to carry Pepperlane Products, Rod and Sandra Weese started to shift their focus onto making sure people had the chance to try to product with the hopes that converts could be found in the aisles of Wasatch Front grocery stores. And in many cases, it worked.
"If you can get it in their mouth, you can make a sale," Trevor said.
Sandra Weese agreed, admitting that jalapeno jelly might be something skipped over in stores if people don’t realize what the product really is or what it tastes like.
"When we get people tasting our jellies, maybe it’s paired with a cracker and a cheese, I’ve often seen people buy all three right there," Weese said. "You need to taste the food, and when you do, you are more willing to buy it, more willing to come back and buy more."
29730 Old Lincoln Highway