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Cheese entrepreneur lands Meijer pilot deal
A tenant of the Grand Rapids Downtown Market incubator kitchen has landed a pilot distribution deal with Meijer.
Oh So Cheesy cheese spreads hit the shelves last month at more than 30 Meijer stores across Michigan in a pilot deal secured less than one year after the company launched.
Oh So Cheesy founder Blair Schwarz and his business partners Mathias Schmitt, Paul Marran and Rich McClellan began talks with Meijer in April and solidified a deal in August resulting in their cheese spreads entering select locations in the greater Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Detroit markets, according to the Downtown Market.
The partners started working in the Downtown Market’s incubator kitchen in June 2018 and launched their product at the Downtown Market’s Very Merry Market Day in November 2018.
Since then, they have produced more than 11,000 pounds of cheese in the market’s incubator kitchen, which were sold at about 10 farmers markets and grocery locations to date, including Bridge Street Market, Kingma’s, Forest Hills Foods and the Holland Farmer’s Market.
“The goal is to have Oh So Cheesy in everyone’s refrigerator,” Schwarz said. “Today’s consumer demands high-quality, spreadable cheese, and we’ve positioned ourselves to provide it.”
Schwarz’s grandfather, Les Schwarz, developed the horseradish-based cheese spread and sold it at his brother’s Kalamazoo family restaurants and drive-ins starting in the 1950s after serving as an infantryman and cook in World War II.
Blair Schwarz redefined the recipe “for the modern palate” with new flavors such as smoky bacon, jalapeño and beer cheese, with more flavors to come.
In addition to the incubator kitchen, Oh So Cheesy worked with Michigan State University Extension programs, including MSU’s Product Center and MSU innovation counselors, on label design, taste testing, product sampling, test marketing, business counseling and exhibiting at the “Making It In Michigan” conference.
The business is expected to reach $100,000 in sales this year and projects revenue of $1 million within five years.
Oh So Cheesy is available at Mejier stores in greater Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Detroit, and it is also sold online at ohsocheesy.com/collections/shop-our-spreads.