Austin, Texas-based Barrel Creek Provisions (formerly Hat Creek Provisions) was founded in 2013 by Tim Klatt and Adam Blumenshein who were both knowledgeable and passionate about fermentation, an ages-old food processing method.
“We have thousands of years of history and civilizations to learn from, because everyone always fermented the things that they had,” Klatt told FoodNavigator-USA.
Barrel Creek Provisions sells a suite of fermented products, including jars of pickled cucumbers and okra, as well as kimchi, sauerkraut, and giardiniera. The company also is attempting to make fermented foods an on-the-go snack with its pouches of fermented carrots, cucumbers, and okra.
Each product is fermented “the right way,” said Nick Benz, CEO of Leaven Brands, who led the company's recent brand refresh.
Barrel Creek Provisions starts with whole vegetables and submerges them in a salt brine, not vinegar, for one week without the use of heat. The end result is a probiotic powerhouse of good bacteria and nutrients, according to the company.
Operating out of two facilities, one houses it R&D lab and production of more specialty, regional products, the other is its co-packer factory that handles its national production runs.
While shelf-stable for up to one year, Barrel Creek Provisions' fermented products are perishable and should be refrigerated, Benz added.
“One of the most important things for us was to really claim our name, Barrel Creek Provisions. The previous packaging, while beautiful, really highlighted the vegetable,” Benz said.
“It was important for us to be a little bit more bold so people saw Barrel Creek Provisions as the trusted expert in the space and then really bring out that educational side of ‘we’re not hiding anything’.”
And the brand has made a name for itself in Austin and the greater Texas area with aggressive growth targets to be available across the US by the end of 2018.
Barrel Creek Provisions’ distribution currently encompasses the southern states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana as well as the Mid-Atlantic region.
“We had some very successful growth expanding outside of our southwest region, all the way up until the first half of 2017. Then we had that pause during the rebrand, and now we’re in a position where we’re back aggressively looking to expand into new markets and into new regions,” Benz said.
With the rollout of its new branding, which includes a new logo and packaging, the company will be targeting the West Coast and Midwest regions next.
Barrel Creek Provisions' line of 'Gut Love' probiotic beverages is a concentrated salt brine of its food products. The company has seen consumers drink it in a 'shot' format or added to salad dressings.
Advancing the gut health conversation
Barrel Creek Provisions wants its products to be associated with improving digestive health, a functional demand that the company has seen take off with consumers accelerated by the amount of research into the unique genetic makeup of the microbiome.
“The new buzzword that people are starting to get excited about is prebiotics,” Benz said.
“You need to feed the probiotics with prebiotics and create this symbiotic relationship within your digestive system so that you’re ultimately able to have a healthier digestive system [and healthier microbiome].”
The company aims to improve consumer education about probiotics and digestive health through its varied product range, which also includes its line of three ‘Gut Love’ beverages.
“[We need to] encourage people to look for these products. We’re moving from the early adopters into the next set and really educate them on why this is something they should consume in their daily life,” Benz added.
“Therefore, we want to have a suite of products that enables them to improve their gut health and get these probiotic rich foods into their diets in a method that makes sense to them.”
What to watch out for in fermented foods
While still relatively a niche category, the global fermented food and beverages market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 7% through 2022, according to a Research and Markets report, supporting a renaissance of reinterpretation of the traditional food preservation technique.
As awareness of probiotics and fermented foods grows, the barrier to entry will continue to drop for new entrants, but there is a downside to be aware of, according to Klatt.
“I think that you’re going to see a lot of things that unfortunately are not fully fermented… products that have somewhat shady backgrounds where it’s brined with some pharmaceutical grade probiotics added to them, stuff like that,” Klatt said.
He added that Barrel Creek Provisions will continue developing new products using its traditional, small-batch fermentation process.
“It’s becoming more mainstream, people are integrating these products into their consumption and I’m super excited as we get going doing some pretty exciting research and development products.”