“So, who's your co-packer?”
“Where do you source your freeze dried ingredients?”
“Do you sell OEM products?”
I'm hit with a deluge of questions when I discuss how Bushka meals are made. Many people are surprised when I explain that our freeze dried meals are actually made in house - by us - from A to Z. Meaning, we source our ingredients from both farmers and local distributors; we scratch cook all the ingredients into meals; we own our equipment and freeze dry the food in our commercial kitchen; and finally, we hand fill each pouch to make the individual meals. I'm not going to lie... it's a lot of steps (and a lot of permits!)
And this begs the question: why? Why go through this long, expensive process when there are means to make the end product cheaper or faster. Why manufacture this in house.
Ultimately, my response boils down to two very simple points: 1) I am obsessed with quality and detail and 2) in house manufacturing creates jobs and drives innovation which leads to a stronger local economy.
freeze dried cherry tomatoes
I started Bushka's Kitchen because I wanted to make the tastiest, healthiest freeze dried food. Period. Not only does this require a commitment to selecting premium ingredients, this desire to make the best also dictates how our food is made. I don't believe making good food is hard, but I do, firmly, believe that making good food takes time. And in a world where convenience food is made on conveyor belts, time is often the missing ingredient! It takes time for a tomato sauce to thicken; it takes time to caramelize onions; it takes time to roast Brussels sprouts. And time is money! And labor is expensive! And if all you care about is profit margin, then yeah, the time it takes food to create a nice, rich flavor profile is not likely to be prioritized.
Which is why we source our ingredients, cook our meals, and package our products in house. While I can't glibly wave away the importance of profit margins, I can try to paint the picture of where and what we prioritize, and the quality of the product we put out is #1 and at the end of the day, I'll never find a co-packer who cares as much as I do about the quality of the product we make.
Manufacturing isn't dead - but the way we think and talk about it needs to change. Frankly, American manufacturing will rarely be cheaper than overseas manufacturing. To be clear, I'm not against overseas manufacturing either - I like buying sneakers for $40 bucks or less. My wallet likes that a lot. But this mass production of cheap, low quality consumables is detrimental to local and small manufacturing because as a whole, society is out of touch with all the steps and costs associated with making a tangible good. We want to buy things for the least amount of money - I'm right there with you! Yet, we often view locally made products through that same low cost mindset lens and are jarred at the price we see versus the price we feel a good is valued at!
Now, it's the onus of the brand to distinguish and elevate its products in order to justify a higher price tag! As a business owner, it's my job to build the narrative around my products and deliver along that narrative too!
Leaving price aside, local manufacturing creates jobs in local communities and drives innovation, all which support your neighborhood's economy! Studies show that a dollar spent locally is more likely to be reinvested back into other local stores and businesses. This recirculation strengthens the small business economy and allows for more job creation to meet a local demand.
At the end of the day, I love what I do and I am extremely proud to stand behind the products we put out, and I feel you can taste this in our meals.
Bushka's Kitchen provides ready-to-eat, lightweight freeze dried food for every type of busy lifestyle, whether that's backpacking, traveling, parenting, or an active life. Browse our nutritious, gourmet food and stock up for your busy life!
We'll be participating in this spring's Bayview Makers Mashup Market. This Market features local producers, artists and craftspeople from Bayview!
The event will feature craft demonstrations, food and beverage samples, and a range of vendors from ceramics to soap makers and more.
Location: 1750 Armstrong Ave, San Francisco, CA 94124 (Public Glass)
Date: Saturday May 11, from 11am to 4pm.