Local Bounty: Quality products, innovation, service helping Saratoga Garlic in Northumberland go national (with 7 photos)

Saratoga Garlic owner Bill Higgins and son Max outside Proctors during the market in Schenectady
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Saratoga Garlic owner Bill Higgins and son Max outside Proctors during the market in Schenectady

NORTHUMBERLAND Saratoga Garlic’s line of aiolis will take your favorite dish — including sandwiches, burgers, crab cakes and deviled eggs — to the next level.

Owner Bill Higgins has been cranking out aioli — a mixture of mashed garlic and olive oil — for the past 25 years from his property, Homestead View Farm, in Northumberland, Saratoga County.

“I was in the horse racing business for a long time and that led me to a distributor who wanted the garlic I grew,” Higgins said. “I thought I’d just grow garlic, but after a stint with the Saratoga Economic Development Corp. it opened my eyes to farm production.

“That led me to aiolis. So I developed a recipe and production kitchen while my kids were growing up.”

Current Saratoga Garlic aioli flavors include wasabi and horseradish, saffron, curry, sambal and the original, Homestead. The company also sells jars of lemon dill pickled garlic.

Saratoga Garlic developed a strong following early on, according to Higgins, who added that the products are now sold at local farmers’ markets including ones in Saratoga Springs, Schenectady and Troy. They can also be found at local grocery stores, restaurants and businesses such as Primal: Your Local Butcher, Impressions Saratoga, Fred the Butcher and more.

After Higgins’ son Max, a graduate of Saratoga Springs High School, joined the business a few years ago to help with sales and marketing, they decided to aim higher than just the local level.

“With Max involved I’ve been able to grow more garlic,” Bill Higgins said. “We’ve also been able to expand our distribution networks.”

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”59″ display=”basic_imagebrowser”]Last May, Saratoga Garlic won one of 12 spots in the Trend Finder contest hosted by KeHE, a national wholesale food distributor. The contest win was based on ingredients, innovation, taste, scalability, packaging, purpose and passion.

“Innovation is one of our core principles, and KeHE is always looking to partner with up-and-coming brands that are pioneering their category,” Rachelle Radcliffe, director of brand development at KeHE, said in a statement. “We know how much this opportunity means to a small business, which makes the selection process extremely difficult. However, we are excited to work with each of these deserving brands to help them reach their maximum potential in the marketplace.”

The KeHE contest win ultimately led Saratoga Garlic to gain exposure to more than 30,000 retail locations across the country.

“[KeHE] got us into close to 200 new retailers up and down the East Coast, and throughout the Midwest,” Max Higgins said. “We were trying to figure out how to get this into more stores, so picking up that distribution was key for us.”

Shifting focus
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, area farmers’ markets went on hiatus, impacting sales for Saratoga Garlic.

“With the farmers’ markets shut down, that was a big hit for us,” Bill Higgins said. “Thankfully, wholesale and retail sales weren’t affected.”

Sourcing materials the business needed to make their products also became an issue, according to Max.

“It became difficult to source our glass jars and other materials, and with costs going up it was certainly an experience for all of us,” Max said. “Thankfully though, with travel on hold, we were able to focus on targeting new customers, retailers and distribution channels through our marketing.”

Once area farmers’ markets were able to reopen, sampling was prohibited — meaning one of the keys to Saratoga Garlic’s success was still on hold.

“A lot of times people don’t know they like it until they try it,” Max said.

With COVID-19 restrictions lifting, and farmers’ markets and regional food events such as the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties and Garlic Fest in Bennington, Vermont, returning, sales are on the rise for Saratoga Garlic.

“Once we were able to let our customers sample again our sales doubled,” said Max, a former apparel salesman. “I love being face to face with customers and seeing their reactions, and finding out how much they enjoy the product. You don’t get that selling apparel, and that’s what’s so special about food — it’s universal.”

‘Full circle’
Moving forward, Saratoga Garlic is focused on becoming a national brand, which is becoming a reality since the distribution deal with KeHE was made last May.

“Expanding into more distribution centers helps us reach more regions of the country,” Max Higgins said. “We’d also like to figure out ways to help the community by letting this product contribute to a specific cause.”

For Bill Higgins, watching his business grow over the years has been so enjoyable, he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

“I’ve been so appreciative of the whole thing, and the fact that Max wants to make the farm his business, too, is terrific,” he said. “It feels pretty good.”

Though Max said he never envisioned himself going into business with his father, it’s a decision he doesn’t take lightly.

“I remember when I was younger, helping my dad at a show at The Desmond, and he told my sister and I that he wanted to start a business for his kids to have,” Max said. “I didn’t understand it at the time, but it came full circle and he’s developed a great recipe, product and brand name.

“Having it be a company that my dad started is motivation to build it as much as I can, cultivate more with the farm and do more with the kitchen.”

Several years ago, Saratoga Garlic underwent a rebranding and changed the look of its label, as well as adding half-gallon and squeeze bottles to its line of products.

“As long as we can create a consistently good product we shouldn’t have a problem selling product,” Max said. “Plus, when we’re face to face with customers, we’re able to see how positively people react to our product.”

The one thing that hasn’t changed, according to Max, is Saratoga Garlic’s recipe.

“We’ve stayed the same from the beginning, and we make a quality product and provide great service to our customers,” he said. “As long as we continue to do that, the rest will take care of itself.”

For information about Saratoga Garlic, visit www.saratogagarlic.com or call 518-581-4093.

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