STARTUP STORY: LUSH GOURMET FOODS

STARTUP STORY: LUSH GOURMET FOODS

LUSH open | UNDISCOVERED KITCHEN BLOG

Lush Gourmet Foods uses only the finest and purest ingredients to handcraft uniquely flavored nuts. Located in Kalamazoo, Michigan, founder Bisera Urdarevik is creating a unique and LUSH tasting experience with 100% all natural USA-grown peanuts, almonds, pure cane sugar, spices, and flavors. Bisera makes all her products from scratch and sticks to her core values of quality, integrity, and innovation. She also reuses and recycles more than 50% of everything that’s purchased!

Though she’s always imagined herself working in the kitchen, after getting her degree in Baking & Pastry, Bisera realized that her passion for food might be better served elsewhere. It was in a marketing class that Bisera used her secret family recipe for roasted peanuts to work on a class project. She soon realized that her family’s holiday treat could be a huge hit outside of the classroom!

Bisera didn’t want the family’s recipe to get out so a shared kitchen wasn’t a good option  – instead she adopted her parents’ second kitchen as her workplace, and Lush Gourmet Foods was born!

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While building her business, Bisera wanted to honor her family’s recipe, but also appeal to specialty diets – which was relatively easy since the recipe is naturally gluten and soy free, and the organic ingredients contain no cholesterol, added oils, preservatives, or artificial flavors.

The Lush Gourmet Foods peanut line includes these specialty flavors:

  • Original: The base of all the others with a dash of sea salt and a perfect roast
  • Salt & Pepper: The sweetness from the roasted peanut is balanced with a kick of pepper
  • Cinnamon Spice: The blend of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg makes for a perfect dessert
  • Hot Curry: Organic curry powder makes for a warm and spicy flavor
  • Coffee: Roasted peanuts are coated with freshly brewed coffee for an energy kick
  • Dark Cocoa Chili: A slight burn from the chili follows a deep chocolate flavor

Bisera has also expanded her line of natural roasted peanuts to include flavored almonds in these flavors:

LUSH almonds | UNDISCOVERED KITCHEN BLOG

Who are the business founders and when did you launch the business?

LUSH founder | UNDISCOVERED KITCHEN BLOG

My name is Bisera Urdarevik and I’m the founder of Lush Gourmet Foods. LGF officially launched in January 2011 with our very first location in Kalamazoo, MI.

What inspired you to start your business?

Growing up I’d always find myself in the kitchen getting my hands dirty and getting into anything my mother or grandmothers were making, so I naturally went to pastry school. While there I came to the realization that the kitchen was not for me, but what would I do? With my love of food and drive for success, opening up my own business seemed like a perfect fit, albeit incredibly scary.

What was your “AHA” moment where you thought – “I’m going to start this business!”?

It all started snowballing after a marketing project in my second year of college. At that point I decided that my first product would be these delicious peanuts I grew up with around the holidays. I loved the fact that they were simple, but the recipe could be transformed into other flavors. They just so happened to be vegan, gluten-free and all-natural, which perfectly coincided with the upcoming food-restrictive trends. The response from my classmates and professor was great, so that really gave me the extra boost of confidence to go full-force.

Where do you currently make your product and how did you find the process of finding a kitchen to be like?

When I first started out, I [naturally] had a very small budget to work with. Leasing a building and building a kitchen was out of the question, and since the product is made using a secret recipe, a shared kitchen wasn’t an option. So, with the generous offer of my parents, we converted the second kitchen in their home to be my certified workspace. It was a great solution to an otherwise very expensive problem. After three years I’ve definitely outgrown the small space and am currently in the process of moving to a leased commercial kitchen!

Did you have a background in the food and drink industry when you started?

I graduated with an associate degree in Baking & Pastry a few years back, so I do have a background in food, but the business side is a whole other story. To gain some more knowledge, I completed a B.A. in Food & Beverage Management, but every day is a learning experience.

A business idea that was left on the editing room floor?

Before launching Lush Nuts I tested a few ideas and one was fruit truffles; they too are a family recipe. They resemble chocolate truffles, but are made with a combination of dried fruits and nuts. They’re absolutely delicious, but have a very short shelf life and ultimately didn’t make the cut.

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Evona is a passionate foodie, entrepreneur and the founder of Undiscovered Kitchen, a digital farmer’s market for small batch, specialty foods! She loves discovering new foods from around the country and talking to the artisans who make them.


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