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Cornell Food Venture Center helps company pickle success

Cornell Food Venture Center has helped upstate businessman Mike Trudell, above, bring his Perfectly Pickled Products to market. Photo by Cornell Brand Communications

Mike Trudell remembers when pickled eggs and sausage were staples at restaurants and taverns. “When I was a kid in the 1970s, I would eat pickled foods all the time,” he said.

But about five years ago, he started noticing that there were few if any pickled items available at restaurants. He asked owners why and learned that modern food safety regulations, enacted to prevent foodborne illness, made it hard for owners to offer many pickled products.

Trudell was inspired. “I wanted to bring back something old school to the new age,” he said.

From that idea, Trudell founded Perfectly Pickled Products (P3), which now sells an array of pickled eggs, meats and vegetables throughout New York state.

Trudell had no background in food science, but as he began researching his idea, it quickly became apparent that, if he wanted help getting this business off the ground, “Cornell was the place to go.”

He contacted the Cornell Food Venture Center (CFVC), which helps new and existing businesses ensure that their food products are safe, stable and meet regulatory guidelines.

Trudell and his family devoted themselves to the business, doing all the manufacturing, sales, distribution, public relations and web design themselves. By the end of 2013, their first year in business, they had placed P3 products in nearly a dozen stores in the Syracuse area. By December 2017, with the help of the CFVC, P3 products were available in 900 stores throughout New York, from Tops and Wegmans grocery stores, to New York City bodegas, and stores of all sizes across the state.

“In upstate New York, a lot of businesses have gone by the wayside – unless you have a trade, or you’re a professional, it can be difficult nowadays to find a good paying job that will make ends meet,” Trudell said. “I wanted to succeed, to provide a good life for my family, so I said, ‘I’ll have to make my own path.’”

Some of P3’s most popular products include Hot Garlic Dill Pickles, Pickled Smoked Andoullie Sausage and Spicy Dilly Beans. Customers are drawn to the quality and the nostalgia, according to Trudell, who is now president of P3. Business expanded at such a pace that the company relocated manufacturing to Rochester to keep up with demand. One customer, Patricia Trudell (no relation to Mike), stumbled upon P3’s pickled eggs, which she hadn’t seen since she was a child, and bought them for her brother.

“I looked at [P3’s] products and the next thing you know, I’m a little girl looking at a jar of pickled eggs that my grandfather has curing on the table,” she said. She was drawn by the connection to her youth, but keeps purchasing from P3 because of “the quality of the product and the wonderful customer service.”

The CFVC assists about 500 companies a year in bringing 2,000 new products to market, according to Bruno Xavier, Ph.D '08, an extension associate with the center at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York.

“Our goal, first and foremost, is to make sure that the pursuit of food safety does not become an overwhelming barrier for small companies bringing new products to market, while ensuring the wellbeing of their consumers,” Xavier said.

Over the past decade, almost all of the growth in the food industry has come from small, artisanal brands like P3 – those brands are growing 12.9 percent annually, compared to 1.4 percent for the entire food industry. Supporting small start-ups is key to growing the food industry economy in New York, Xavier said.

“People may have an idea for a new food product, but it has to be safe for consumers, and that’s the biggest stress that the Food Venture Center can help you with,” Mike Trudell said. “The Food Venture Center’s always there. Any time I had a question or concern, they were always there to help.”

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.