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The Next Big Thing: Eat These Pickles – Beyond the Pickle

November 16, 2017

By Charmian Christie, The Messy Baker

Most people bring bottles of wine to a party. Eric Machtinger brought his homemade pickles. His hosts weren’t disappointed. They were enthusiastic. “People would crack open the jar and eat the whole thing,” Eric says. “They loved them.”

Eric’s pickle passion began more than 6 years ago when a graphic artist he worked with brought pickled items to work. He shared the recipes with Eric, who began creating variations of his own. But Eric didn’t stop at making enough for hostess gifts and family meals. With a packaging background and vision, Eric then began “fooling around” with packing, labels, and branding. Again, he used family and friends for feedback, and Eat These Pickles became the first brand under what Eric hopes will become a larger umbrella.

Pickles is a competitive market spot. Eric believes Eat These Pickles stands out thanks to branding and a distinctive look. “Brand name speaks,” Eric says. Looking to strike a balance, the brand employs a clean, modern typography on a label enwrapping an old-fashioned mason jar — a shout out to pickles’ homemade roots. The mix is so engaging, Eat These Pickles won Gold in the New Brand, Food & Beverage category at 2016 PAC Global Leadership Awards. With an engaging design and good social media visuals, Eric does limited marketing through Instagram and Facebook, but says most retail outlets come to him.

Eric Machtinger of Eat These Pickles.

More than a Pretty Pickle

Eric knows that when it comes to pickles, what’s on the inside is just as important as the award-winning label. He works hard to find tastes that will appeal. While friends and family were the first to love Eric’s pickles, retail customers have embraced them too. Four years in, Eric now has avid pickle fans thanks to the 8 outlets that stock his pickles. And he always sells out, regardless of production. Repeat business is likely behind this “They [the customers] come back 3 and 4 times,” Eric says.

He also knows the pickle fans are not loyal to one brand or flavour, noting, “Some people have 5 brands of pickles in their fridges.” He currently has 5 flavours of pickled cucumbers, a line of pickled hot pepper relish, and is introducing a pickled onion with a twist – these are red onions destined for sandwiches, not the tiny white cocktail onions you see as a side dish.

Growing Pains

Four years ago, Eric lost his pickling kitchen when the management moved facilities. He needed a new location and wasn’t sure how to go about it. At a breakfast meeting organized by George Brown College, Eric learned about Food Starter and began using the Incubator space. This relieved the pressure of finding a suitable manufacturing location, but created a time crunch. “If you book 8 hours you are in and out in 8 hours,” Eric says. This year, with output doubling or potentially tripling, Eat These Pickles had outgrown the shared space quickly. The solution was renting Accelerator space and installing his own equipment.

Even with his own space, time pressure remains. The biggest challenge is our growing season. Ontario field cucumbers grow for only 4 months out of the year, limiting production time. Eric hasn’t sourced outside the province and, unlike their English cousins, field cucumbers don’t grow in greenhouses. The Accelerator space is crucial to maximizing production time.

The Food Starter community was an unexpected bonus. “Everyone is happy to share their experiences, which is valuable when trying to run a new business,” Eric says. “It’s hard to do it yourself. You need a knowledge base.”

Eat These…

What’s next? Eric isn’t sure. When he began his business, it wasn’t about pickles. “I had this idea of a brand, and it became a product, and ended up in a store. People enjoy my creation for the food, the brand, the packaging.” No matter what comes next, Eric says it will start with an idea that people gravitate towards. 

Eat These Pickles!