State-made ketchup de­buts in Lit­tle Rock

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - RACHEL HERZOG

It seemed too ob­vi­ous for it not to ex­ist.

So thought Am­ber Dav­isTan­ner, who was on va­ca­tion in Ore­gon last year when she no­ticed nearly ev­ery restau­rant fea­tured lo­cally made ketchup with toma­toes grown in the state. She re­called grow­ing up on an Arkansas farm where her grand­par­ents grew toma­toes ev­ery year.

“I was like, Arkansas has amaz­ing toma­toes. Why don’t we have Arkansas ketchup?” she said.

That was the be­gin­ning of Arkansas Ketchup Co., a Lit­tle Rock busi­ness started by Davis-Tan­ner and her friend, John Crow­ley. Their 12-ounce bot­tles now sit on the shelves of sev­eral Lit­tle Rock stores and restau­rants and con­trib­ute to the city’s grow­ing lo­cal food scene.

When Davis-Tan­ner told sev­eral friends about her idea, Crow­ley pushed her to make it hap­pen. Both en­joyed cook­ing, but nei­ther had much ex­pe­ri­ence with sauces. They started tweak­ing recipes they found on­line in their kitchens and test­ing them on spouses and friends. Even­tu­ally, they found what they thought was the right bal­ance of sweet and tangy, the right mix of spices.

The fi­nal prod­uct in­cludes toma­toes from Lit­tle Rock Tomato, a dis­trib­u­tor that sources from farms around the state. The lat­est batch

in the ketchup are from Mon­ti­cello. The recipe also con­tains honey, which Davis-Tan­ner and Crow­ley get from Richard’s Api­aries, a bee farm and honey out­let near Ben­ton.

Davis-Tan­ner started tak­ing bot­tles to spe­cialty stores in Lit­tle Rock like The Green Cor­ner Store and Heights Cor­ner Mar­ket, which she said were ea­ger to stock it, with The Green Cor­ner Store host­ing an Arkansas Ketchup Co. launch party Satur­day.

Word of the ketchup spread among friends and on so­cial me­dia. It sold out at the Ber­nice Gar­den Farmers Mar­ket. The busi­ness gained enough sup­port to fund its first of­fi­cial batch of nearly 350 bot­tles through a Kick­starter on­line crowd-fund­ing cam­paign that sur­passed its goal of $5,000 in May.

Mak­ing big­ger batches and sell­ing their prod­uct to stores and restau­rants meant Davis-Tan­ner and Crow­ley needed a big­ger kitchen with a com­mer­cial rat­ing to com­ply with Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion reg­u­la­tions. For each batch, they drive to Fayet­teville to use the Arkansas Food In­no­va­tion Cen­ter at the Univer­sity of Arkansas.

Crow­ley said he hopes a re­source like the cen­ter even­tu­ally will ex­ist for food pro­duc­ers in Lit­tle Rock.

Eric Her­get, who owns Heights Cor­ner Mar­ket, said some pro­duc­ers of lo­cal foods make up for the lack of in­fra­struc­ture by us­ing the mar­ket’s kitchen or a church kitchen with a com­mer­cial rat­ing. He said lo­cal pro­duc­ers are ea­ger to have a place to sell their prod­ucts, and he’s happy to sup­port other Arkansans.

“We’ll talk to ev­ery­body,” he said.

On Satur­day, friends and passers-by min­gled at The Green Cor­ner Store, where they sam­pled Arkansas Ketchup Co.’s condi­ment on fries and hush pup­pies from The Root Cafe across the street.

Ash­ley Pet­tus stopped by with her mother af­ter see­ing the event on Face­book. Pet­tus, who owns Lumi Beauty Stu­dio on Scott Street, said she tries to keep up with other lo­cal busi­nesses.

“I feel like it’s get­ting bet­ter for sure,” Pet­tus said of the small-busi­ness scene in Lit­tle Rock. “We are a small com­mu­nity, but peo­ple get in the mind-frame that there’s noth­ing to do in Lit­tle Rock, there’s no op­por­tu­nity, and there is.

“So when peo­ple stop think­ing that and they do sup­port small busi­nesses and lo­cal busi­nesses, then we’ll grow that way.”

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/MITCHELL PE MASILUN

Carol Ann Crow­ley and Mark Tan­ner fill sam­ple cups with ar­ti­san ketchup Satur­day at The Green Cor­ner Store in Lit­tle Rock dur­ing the launch party for Arkansas Ketchup Co. The com­pany is one of many in the state that fo­cuses on us­ing Arkansas-grown in­gre­di­ents.

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