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Recipe for Success

Story by Eloise Holland. Photos by Vern Uyetake. Video by Bryan Rosenberger.

Keith Kullberg, owner of The Better Bean Co and Claudia Knotek, Community Relations Manager at New Seasons Market

With two start-up businesses under his belt in the last 20 years, Keith Kullberg is no amateur entrepreneur.

Even so, when he had the idea to start
his own company featuring freshly prepared beans, he knew he’d have to do his homework.

“I have been working on the Better Bean Co. for a year now, and I’m still learning the ropes in the food business,” Kullberg said.

A self-professed “foodie,” Kullberg noticed that it was impossible to buy refried beans or prepared beans that lived up to his standards. He began looking into it and discovered that there were no other companies offering the kind of gourmet beans he had in mind.

“Once we decided to develop the product, more than one person recommended
the PCC Recipe to Market Program,” Kullberg said.

Described as an “extreme sport kind of a program” by co-creator Tammy Marquez-Oldham, the Getting Your Recipe to Market Program is one of the many offerings for small business entrepreneurs now offered by the PCC CLIMB Center for Advancement. It was founded as a collaboration between Portland Community College, Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center and New Seasons Market.

“The program covers all essential elements for a food entrepreneur to bring their product from idea to commercial ready,” said Marquez-Oldham, the CLIMB Center’s director of small business development.

These elements include food safety and science, recipe formulation, product development, brand development and marketing, basic financial management, distribution and much more.

Claudia Knotek of New Seasons Market agrees that the program is comprehensive.

“The curriculum they’ve put together is excellent,” Knotek said. “When (graduates of the program) come to us, they’ve done lots of research. They’ve done
their homework. Most of them are pretty close to market.”

New Seasons first sees the program participants at “Time to Market,” the big finale at the end of each 12-week Getting Your Recipe to Market session.

This trade-show-like event allows the food entrepreneurs to present their product to the community at large while competing to win a food competition hosted by New Seasons. The winner is granted a
$2,000 cash prize and shelf space at New Seasons stores.

Angela Bozo, demo merchandiser at New Seasons, and Keith Kullberg, owner of The Better Bean Co.

This year the winner was the Better Bean Co.’s Skillet Refried Beans, which Kullberg describes as having a rich caramelized flavor from being sautéed in safflower oil.

“The difference in flavor between our refried beans and the canned products is the same difference as between a barbecued steak and boiled hamburger,” said Kullberg, whose product debuted at New Seasons in November 2009.

“It’s a clean, very high quality, very
authentic refried bean product,” said Angela Bozo, who has worked as the
demo merchandiser at New Seasons for the past four years. Bozo helps the “Time to Market” winners get their products
shelf-ready and says the program is important because it provides food entrepreneurs a direct relationship with the market. “You can so easily get lost in the shuffle,” she said.

In the three and a half years since the Getting Your Recipe to Market Program launched, more than 65 food entrepreneurs have been through the program, creating such notable products as Laurel’s Sweet Treats gluten-free baking mixes and Florio Bakery’s frozen scones.

Despite these successes, Kullberg recommends that people do market research before committing their resources. “A lot of work and  significant investment is required just to get started,” he said.

Marquez-Oldham couldn’t agree more. She knows that PCC’s CLIMB Center has exactly what these budding food entrepreneurs need.

“CLIMB specializes in entrepreneur and business development, and the Food Innovation Center specializes in food science, product development and food safety,” said Marquez-Oldham. “Add New Seasons’ dedication to innovative food products for its consumers, and you have a winning recipe for success.”

Thanks to CLIMB’s Getting Your Recipe to Market Program, these delicious businesses have found success locally and beyond:

Interested in this program?

The next Getting Your Recipe to Market session starts April 6. For more information:


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