Whiting adds layers to teriyaki
Teriyaki sauce is versatile.
It’s not just a condiment that can be mixed with Japanese food. One can spread it on hamburgers, marinade steaks, baste chicken and even use it to add some zing to salmon.
Now, Seal Sama Teriyaki Sauce even adds more options for people who are dietary-challenged it comes in wheat-free/gluten-free, sugar-free, less sodium and the original chef’s blend.
"There was definitely a dietary need out there, said Peggi Whiting, the founder of Seal Sama.
After training in Tokyo in the 80s, Whiting started Ichiban Sushi in Park City.
Throughout her time as a head chef, she would get special requests for sauces and foods without certain ingredients.
"The customers would want that, and I would make it on the spot for them," Whiting said.
Aside from her customers’ requests, much of her family is also diabetic, which gave birth to the idea of making a product to fit those needs. She sold Ichiban and in the following year started to develop a new product line.
"I started thinking about making it before I sold Ichiban," Whiting said.
Soon after selling the restaurant, requests for her teriyaki sauce remained strong, and it wasn’t just for the specialty sauce. People wanted the original stuff too.
"All my friends showed up on my doorstep with gallon jugs wanting me to make teriyaki sauce," Whiting said.
So, she started Seal Sama Foods with the teriyaki line as the first to come out on the market almost a year ago.
"I knew teriyaki sauce was my most popular, so I knew I would do that first," Whiting said. "It has all the same flavor and texture and they address different health concerns."
The name Seal Sama, which includes a logo of the face of a seal turning to the left, symbolizes those things that are close to Whiting.
"The seal, is not only a cute recognizable label, it’s also the first initials of my children, Sean and Alissa" Whiting said. "Sama is my nickname from all my servers in Park City. Sama means Ma’am in Chinese. It’s like dude on a higher level."
After 20 years of running what became a successful restaurant, Whiting forgot what it was like to start over.
"It’s a new business that you don’t know the ins and outs of," Whiting said.
Working out small details made the company’s progress drag. She had to use a chemist to make sure the ingredients were right for sale, find labels, plastic wrapping and bottles.
"It took two months to find a bottling company, with heavy-duty research," Whiting said.
Placement of the product wasn’t easy either.
"As far as placement goes, you are out there pounding the pavement, talking to grocery store managers."
When she compares it to her first few years at Ichiban, however, she is quite pleased.
It’s successful, "especially for being a year old," Whiting said. "I was a chef of a very extremely busy restaurant, an established 20-year-old business, but I’m further ahead with Seal Sama than one year at Ichiban. It’s growing at a good pace. My percentages are higher."
One of the first stores to have her product was Dan’s, now The Market at Park City.
"They really support local businesses and they put products on shelves to support local companies," Whiting said.
After Seal Sama started making sales, more Associated Food Stores started noticing and she made a deal with Kehe Food Distributors six weeks ago.
"It’s a nationwide distributor," Whiting said. "I can sell to Idaho and Wyoming."
Bigger distributors wouldn’t even look at her until she had some success in the local markets, she said. Stores like The Market at Park City and the Utah Zone Program, run by the Department of Agriculture that helps local businesses grow, were instrumental as stepping stones for Seal Sama, Whiting said.
When she started Ichiban, naysayers told her women could not be sushi chefs. She proved them wrong and she plans on hurtling similar obstacles with Seal Sama. She wants to add wasabi and spicy mayonnaise in the near future.
"It’s a roller coaster ride," Whiting said. "It’s a new business where you have definite ups and downs. You hit a wall and then you have a big high, the trick is not giving up when you hit the walls."
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When it comes to the U.S. census, let’s just say Park City has… room for improvement.