Capital Region

Heaping Helpings: Locally made products did well this year, despite or due to the pandemic

Left: Packages of coffee from Electric City Roasters at the Schenectady Trading Company; Top Right: Salty pretzel bark from Bittersweet Candy on Jay Street in Schenectady; Bottom Right: Beer cheese spread produced via a collaboration between The DillyBean and Wolf Hollow Brewing Company.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Left: Packages of coffee from Electric City Roasters at the Schenectady Trading Company; Top Right: Salty pretzel bark from Bittersweet Candy on Jay Street in Schenectady; Bottom Right: Beer cheese spread produced via a collaboration between The DillyBean and Wolf Hollow Brewing Company.

CAPITAL REGION – In hopes of supporting community businesses, many have opted to shop local during the pandemic. That’s especially true when it comes to grocery items.

According to a 2020 survey by ZypMedia, 53% of consumers say that they’re more likely to buy from a local business than a national retailer during the pandemic. The leading reasons were to support the local community and to support the local economy.

A survey by the National Retail Federation found that 49% of respondents made a purchase specifically to support a local business in 2020.

Some retailers and makers in the greater Capital Region have found that to be the case this year. From beloved Electric City candy to headline-making pasta from Coxsackie, here’s a look at locally produced foods that have been popular throughout this turbulent year.

Hot Crispy Oil
This olive-oil-based condiment is packed with flavor, including fried garlic, shallots and a blend of spices to bring the heat. People pair it with everything from eggs to pasta.

The product and the company were created in 2020 by John Trimble, who comes from a family of local restaurateurs. At the onset of the pandemic, they shut down the family restaurant, La Serre in Albany, and Trimble got to work creating Hot Crispy Oil. It’s produced in Albany and sold at local retailers as well as online. It starts at $13.99 a jar.

More from our Heaping Helpings special section: How food, and those who provided it, lifted us through pandemic

Bittersweet
Chocolate from this Jay Street candymaker has been a consistent seller throughout the pandemic, as people are looking for sugary sweet comfort.

“[The Schenectady Trading Company] and Wolf Hollow have sold so much of my chocolate during the pandemic. It’s such a lifesaver for other small businesses to support like that,” said Heather Lent, who owns Bittersweet Candy.

The top sellers are salty pretzel bark and peppermint bark. Other favorites are novelty chocolates, such as a chocolate version of “The Last Supper” or chocolate mustaches.

“I just have a lot of different, unique molded chocolates,” Lent said. “Just funny stuff that makes people chuckle and is also delicious, which is a nice combo. I just think it’s helpful to have people in a good mood right now.”

In terms of what type of chocolate tends to sell well, it’s a close call between dark and milk.

“Everybody says they like dark chocolate but a lot of people buy milk chocolate,” Lent said. “It’s definitely 60-40 [split]. It’s closer than you would think.”

Coffee
Coffee always tends to sell, but with more people brewing their cups at home during the pandemic it’s been selling exceptionally well this year — at least that’s what The Schenectady Trading Company has found. They carry Electric City Roasters, whole-bean coffee made in Schenectady, and Mohawk Coffee, which is both ground and whole-bean.

Beer Cheese Spread
Jay Street’s The DillyBean and Wolf Hollow Brewing Company teamed up during the pandemic to create a beer-cheese spread that’s been a top seller. The tasty treat combines mild and sharp cheddar cheese, along with the brewery’s Pulpit Supply Pub Ale, cream cheese, and mustard and hot sauce.

While The DillyBean is well known for its dips (and chicken salad), the beer-cheese spread remains its most popular item, according to owner Abby Rockmacher. It’s available at The DillyBean and starts at $8 for 8 ounces.

Cascatelli by Sporkful
A new pasta shape, made in Coxsackie, made headlines earlier this year. Called cascatelli, which means waterfall in Italian, the pasta is ruffled with a 90-degree curl meant to maximize what the creator refers to as “forkability,” or how easy it is to sink your fork into.

Dan Pashman, a James Beard award-winning podcaster and creator of the pasta, worked with the Sfoglini Pasta Factory to manufacture the cascatelli. It’s become so popular that online orders may take 10 weeks or more to ship, though it is available at select local retailers.

More from our Heaping Helpings special section: How food, and those who provided it, lifted us through pandemic

Categories: Food, Heaping Helpings, Life and Arts

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